Two for Tuesday: Winter Games get High-Tech

When the best athletes in the world gather to compete next to each other on the global stage, the hundredths of a second between them making and missing the podium comes down to the gear they use.

While the Winter Olympics showcase some of the greatest athletes, the games are also introducing the world to some high-tech equipment. Obviously Sochi has some low-tech accommodations compared to U.S. standards—or perhaps their so deceivingly high-tech that American bobsled team member Johnny Quinn has to hulk though doors in order to open them. (It’s plausible… After all, this is the country that sent Sputnik into orbit. Surely they can manufacture properly working doors and elevators with the $51 billion they spent on the games). Aside from the brown water, odd plumbing/ toilet placements and somewhat shady locking systems, the games are pretty technologically advanced. In fact, the XXII Olympic Winter Games are considered the most “technologically complex, data-intensive Games ever.” From security advancements like facial recognition monitors at the airports to tracking devices such as GPS and finish line sensors and especially the broadcasts, which aren’t only being shown on television, but streamed to computers, smartphones and tablets worldwide, technology is propelling these games more so than ever before. But, for the athletes, the most important technology comes down to the gear they’re using. This Two for Tuesday, we’ll look at two technological advances bringing Team USA closer to the podium before the races even begin.

State of the Art Sleds

Before the men won the gold in 2010 for the four man bobsled event, the last time the United States bobsled team won a gold medal, the late Shirley Temple was beginning her childhood acting career. Over three-quarters of a century later, and engineers have set the U.S. up for a number of events. For years, countries like Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom have relied on big name innovators and designers such as Formula One, Ferrari and McLaren to manufacture cutting-edge sleds for their teams. For these games, the U.S. commissioned BMW to engineer new sleds for the bobsled, luge and skeleton events. Thus far, the investment has not disappointed as, Erin Hamlin won the first singles luge Olympic medal (bronze) in the nation’s history.

Even if athletes don’t podium, the update wasn’t a complete waste: the luge and skeleton equipment team USA used in the last Olympics was 12 to 15 years old. Anyone who witnessed the 1988 Olympics (or the film Cool Runnings) knows what can happen when racers compete with sub-par sleds.

A First-Place Fabric

This year, Team USA unveiled their new skintight speed skating uniforms by Under Armour. In conjunction with Lockheed Martin, a leader in aerospace technology, Under Armour created and outfitted US speedskaters with what is said to be the fasted speedskating uniform available, The Mach 39. In order to reduce drag, Lockheed Martin used computer modeling and three hundred hours of wind tunnel testing to create the suit’s aerodynamic skeleton. Through additional testing, Under Armour concluded that in order to construct the most aerodynamic suits, they needed to use several strategically-placed fabrics and materials, rather than using just one fabric. So far, no Team USA speedskater has medaled. Two-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski just missed the podium yesterday for the 1500m Short Track. See the Americans and The Mach 39 in action during the speedskating events.

Obviously technology is the talk of the town in Sochi. But, as the malfunctioning snowflake in the opening ceremonies shows, technology isn’t always reliable. To really go for gold, athletes will have to have the skill set as well as quality gear.

Cover Photo Source: Iurii Osadchi / Shutterstock.com

Cassandra is a Content Manager and Developer at SJG. She earned her BA from Fontbonne University in 2011. Outside the office, she enjoys an active, healthy and well-rounded lifestyle including reading, writing, running, golfing, watching films, listening to music, taking photographs, and consuming media and social media.