The ability of technology to lift elite athletes to even higher levels of performance is nothing new, but the way gear makers keep ahead of the rule creators remains, in some ways, a true marvel.
Records were famously — or infamously — obliterated by skintight body suits at the 2008 Games. Just because those suits were banned doesn’t mean suit designs put their tails between their legs and headed home.
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And it’s not just swimming. There are some simply stunning, “I wouldn’t have thought of that” stories coming ahead the games. One company even designed sprint tape to be affixed to runners’ bodies to increase speed.
So, yeah, from suits designed for the breast stroke to tiny energy-preserving coils in distance running shoes, science will loom large in Rio. The gear designers appreciate the challenge of staying ahead of the trends.
They even relish it.
“We make sure we stay inside those rules, but we will get to the very edge of them if we can,” said Adam Clement, senior creative director for team sports at Under Armour. “Our goal is to innovate in a way that ultimately makes the Olympic rules change. We’ll adjust, but we’ll feel proud of that accomplishment.”