The Olympic battle for shoe tech supremacy
For the first time in more than a dozen years, the Olympics track and field events don’t have a clear hero. Since Beijing 2008 till his retirement in 2017, the Jamaican sprinter and the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, had attracted all the attention in the build-up to and at the summer games. However, leading up to Tokyo 2020, the Bolt-sized buzz had been missing.
What filled in was plenty of discussion around a new shoe technology that uses carbon plates in the soles. This innovation helps the athlete wearing them improve their performance by about 4 per cent. That may seem like a small number, but at the very top of elite running, this can easily make the difference between a medal and no medal, between a new record and none, between qualifying for the final and crashing out.
The first brand to successfully use the carbon plate technology in its shoes was Nike. The company first developed road running shoes, and using one of the earlier avatars of Nike’s carbon technology shoes, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, the current marathon world record holder and defending Olympic champion, became the first man to run a full marathon in under two hours, albeit in a controlled environment in Vienna, Austria, in 2019. After successfully incorporating and refining the carbon plate technology shoes used by marathoners, Nike successfully transferred the technology to the running spikes that are used by sprinters who compete in the track events.
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