To sharpen their competitive edge, some of the U.S. Olympic athletes have been playing brain-controlled video games. Others have gotten room makeovers. Still others are wearing tighter clothing. And almost all of them have been caught on video. Believe it or not, this is serious stuff: Such technological tricks could make an athlete a fraction of a second faster, or just a little more alert — potentially spelling the difference between a medal-winner and an also-ran. But how do you separate the winning formulas from the high-tech hoohah?
Bill Sands, head of sport biomechanics and engineering for the U.S. Olympic Committee, has seen both sides of the high-tech equation: He says he’s sitting on some not-yet-publicized innovations in training that have yielded “staggering results,” but he’s also turned down plenty of “hare-brained ideas” that he feels aren’t worth the athletes’ time.
Consider the somewhat less baggy uniforms that the U.S. hockey team will be wearing this year at the Turin Olympics. Nike redesigned the jerseys to cut down on aerodynamic drag, developed lighter and better-fitting skates and even reduced the weight of the socks by 40 percent, said company spokesman Nate Tobecksen. During testing, the tighter uniforms made skaters ever-so-slightly speedier: “From red line to red line, it’s like a blade’s-length difference in speed,” Tobecksen told MSNBC.com. “So it could mean the difference for getting to the puck as opposed to being taken off the puck.”