Friday, 15 June 2012
US Olympic track and field athletes will wear uniforms at the London Summer Olympics that Nike says could shave up to 0.023 seconds off 100-metre sprint times - a difference that could have elevated Walter Dix from bronze to the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Dix still wouldn't have caught the fastest man in the world that day. Usain Bolt of Jamaica simply ran away from the field in the final, setting a world record that he would later break again.
But maybe these uniforms, with dimples that mimic a golf ball, could help the Americans close the gap on Bolt and his training partner, Yohan Blake.
The company said its tests showed an unexpectedly big difference in the 100-, 200- and 400-metre races. The outfits were unveiled on Thursday evening in New York.
"We couldn't believe the numbers," said Martin Lotti, Nike's Olympics creative director.
"That's not just the difference between first and second place, it's about making the podium."
The added texture might seem counterintuitive, but the company studied the aerodynamics of golf balls and found the textures and dimples make it more efficient. Patterned patches are on the forearm and leg, the fastest-moving parts of the body.
"The logical thing would have been to make it smoother or use lighter materials, but we challenged ourselves to think differently," Lotti said.
Spyder made a similar claim with speed suits in Vancouver for skiers - and the Americans had one of their best showings in Alpine. The Speedo LZR Racer that Michael Phelps and teammates donned for the 2008 Beijing Olympics made a mockery of world records.
"It's a sport of hundredths and thousandths - there has been no great leap forward in track and field, like the suits swimming had," said Jill Geer, chief communications officer for USA Track and Field. "But if there is a possible benefit of shaving some amount of time off of a performance, that's fantastic.
"For an athlete who puts on the uniform, maybe the knowledge it might make them two-hundredths of a second faster, that information alone might be enough to make them run faster."
The shoe worn by marathon runners will also save about 19 per cent of its old marathon shoe weight - or about the weight of a car over the 40,000 steps typically taken in a marathon, Lotti said.
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