Every four years, we watch. We marvel at badminton, wonder about the modern decathlon and proudly pause for synchronized swimming. With more than 300 gold medals awarded across 37 disciplines, the next two weeks of our lives should be impressively unproductive. To aid in your immersion, we continue with our new series: "know your Olympic sport." It's part reminder that people actually get medals for this stuff (see: trampoline gymnastics) and part introduction to the science behind the sports.
In our second installment, we leave the ping pong balls on the porch and head to the track. Inside you'll find shoes that don't match, a suit not made by Speedo, an excuse for why you never won races in high school; along with a plea for some better technology. Andalé!
Lace It Right
With every left turn a NASCAR car makes, the right and left side tires are stressed unequally. Manufacturers often counter that blatant imbalance with side-specific suspension (and even tires). But, racecar drivers aren't the only athletes loyal to lefts in pursuit of a finish line. Sprinters show an equal prejudice against right turns. So if cars race with side-specific settings, should sprinters lace-up different shoes? Adidas and 400m world champion Jeremy Wariner think so. The Lone Star shoe is the first mid-distance set of spikes sporting different stud patterns on the left and right shoe.
High speed video footage and pressure mapping was used to analyze the biomechanics of both feet around a turn. The results suggested that the left foot was used for stability while the right powered through the turn. The greater force exerted by the right foot required an alteration to the spike design.
The shoe also sports a carbon nanotube reinforced full-length plate that is one-third the thickness and one-half the weight of Wariner's previous kicks. Even the spikes themselves have been redesigned to avoid cutting into the track that wastes energy pulling the spike back out. A retail version is likely but won't hit shoe stores anytime soon, so for now little Billy will need to cut back on the Twinkies.