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Hampstead film-maker explores the secret of Usain Bolt and Caribbean athletes' sporting success

PUBLISHED: 18:41 06 August 2012

Jamacia's Usain Bolt (left) celebrates winning gold in the men's 100metre final alongside silver medal winner Johan Blake at the Olympic Stadium. Picture: Stephen Pond/PA Wire

Jamacia's Usain Bolt (left) celebrates winning gold in the men's 100metre final alongside silver medal winner Johan Blake at the Olympic Stadium. Picture: Stephen Pond/PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

A Hampstead film-maker has sought to uncover the secret of how the Caribbean - with some of the poorest islands in the world - produces a conveyor belt of the fastest and strongest athletes on earth.

From tent villages in Haiti to prostitution-ravaged Dominican Republic, the Caribbean – against all odds – has a track record of producing Olympic winners.

Jamaica star sprinters Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake claimed gold and silver medals in the 100metres Olympic final on Sunday (August 5).

Sanna Allsopp, who lived in Lawn Road before emigrating to Barbados four years ago, spent a month hopping between eight Caribbean islands to try and uncover the secret behind their success.

She discovered a melting pot of explanations as to why the Caribbean is such fertile land for elite sportsmen and women.

Her film Built To Last, premiered on Friday (August 3) at the British Film Institute and features Jamaican star sprinters Blake, Asafa Powell and Karate black belt Yoryi Segura from the Dominican Republic.

Mrs Allsopp, whose husband is from Barbados, made the film to promote Caribbean sport.

She said: “It was really inspiring. They come from quite lowly backgrounds and the poverty and struggle really pushes them to succeed.

“And if you combine that with amazing physical prowess and a strong sense of national pride then you get those kind of results.”

The film also features interviews with musician Wyclef Jean, Bajan novelist Professor George Lamming and Pamela Coke-Hamilton of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, which delve into the cultural reasons behind the islands’ disproportionate success.

Accounts from social commentators, sporting gurus and athletes all conclude that the clutch of tiny islands is one the most ethically diverse, deprived and patriotic collection of countries in the world.

And that this all contributes to their athletic prowess.

“They are little islands and there is a tremendous sense of national pride there,” said the film director, who describes herself as an activist film-maker.

“They want to raise their flag for their country. So the film is really a story of hope, about the Caribbean will to succeed despite the odds.”

The film may be screened on television after the Olympic Games have finished.

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