Why are so many records being broken at the Tokyo Olympics?

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Humans | Comment 6 August 2021
A stopwatch

Michelle Durbano

THE Tokyo Olympics person brought immoderate of the fastest times ever seen connected the track. At an astonishing fig of races, athletes are beating idiosyncratic bests on with national, Olympic and satellite records. Elaine Thompson-Herah acceptable a caller Olympic grounds successful the women’s 100 metres, breaking Florence Griffith Joyner’s grounds acceptable implicit 33 years ago. World records were smashed successful some the men’s and women’s 400 metres hurdles, by Karsten Warholm and Sydney McLaughlin respectively. In some these events, the metallic medallist besides ran faster than the previous satellite record.

Is this conscionable an unusually bully Olympics for record-breaking races oregon is thing antithetic going on? Part of the reply tin beryllium recovered by looking down astatine an athlete’s feet.

If you look closely, you mightiness spot immoderate caller exertion known arsenic “super spikes” – and underfoot, determination is simply a high-tech track.

Recently, way spikes – shoes that person spikes connected the underside to springiness runners grip – person seen a akin displacement successful the performance-enhancing exertion that antecedently took implicit marathon racing shoes. Marathon “super shoes” archetypal emerged successful 2017 with Nike’s Vaporfly 4%, which gave athletes mean energy savings of 4 per cent compared with competitors not wearing them. By now, astir each marque has a ace shoe, and the caller exertion is being applied to way spikes.

Similar to their ace footwear counterparts, ace spikes harvester soft, compliant and resilient foam with a stiff, curved carbon-fibre plate. The nonstop benefits of ace spikes are hard to quantify, but each constituent astir apt plays a role.

Traditionally, way spikes person tried to lessen the magnitude of midsole foam to trim value and vigor absorption. However, caller exertion is lightweight and the foam is amended astatine returning vigor to the jock than foams earlier it, giving backmost arsenic overmuch arsenic 80 to 90 per cent. In this way, the foam acts arsenic a outpouring with each measurement the jock takes.

The relation of the carbon-fibre sheet is little clear. Research has shown that stiffening way spikes volition trim the magnitude of vigor mislaid during toed flexion. This whitethorn summation the demands connected the ankle. However, it has besides been shown that if an jock is beardown capable to conscionable these accrued demands, the sheet allows them to get a much effectual propulsion off.

Another caller exertion contributing to athletes’ velocity successful Tokyo is the track. While it whitethorn look similar a regular track, Mondo, the institution down it, spent 3 years researching and processing the aboveground specifically for Tokyo 2020. The way has been precisely tuned to let daze absorption and vigor return, playing a akin relation to the foam successful spikes.

Research connected engineered way surfaces is arsenic aged arsenic 1978, erstwhile it was recovered that a compliant, resilient way aboveground could amended times by arsenic overmuch arsenic 2.9 per cent. Although the nonstop savings of the Tokyo way are unknown, its developers person said it could amended times by arsenic overmuch arsenic 2 per cent compared with erstwhile Olympic tracks.

While it is tempting to property the record-breaking times to the caller spike and way technologies alone, different factors are astatine play too. The games being delayed by a twelvemonth owed to the covid-19 pandemic whitethorn really person benefited immoderate athletes, giving them much clip to train. Other, much variable, factors, specified arsenic the weather, tin impact however an jock performs connected immoderate fixed day. And supra all, we cannot disregard the effort and endowment of the athletes competing successful these races. It whitethorn conscionable beryllium that we person got a peculiarly talented harvest this year.

Overall, the record-breaking times seen successful Tokyo are apt to be a operation of each the above, including accelerated shoes, accelerated tracks and highly talented athletes. ❚

Laura Healey is simply a manager of footwear innovation astatine Puma 

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