The Consultancy's Guest bloggers | N°4: Emily Turrettini

Citius, Altius, Fortius By Emily Turrettini

The famous Olympic motto which motivates all high performing athletes, also inspires the sports companies that cater to them – as they develop the scientifically designed gear which enables them to go faster, jump higher and be stronger. 

But technology enhanced clothing is often the subject of debate for giving an unfair advantage to those who wear them. 

 Famously, the Speedo LZR full body-length swimsuit made of polyurethane, worn by athletes in the 2008 Olympics, broke 13 world records and was subsequently banned from Games. The suit both compressed the body while trapping air for buoyancy, reducing drag and friction, allowing the swimmer to move faster on the water. Even Michael Phelps, who won seven medals at Beijing wearing the Speedo LZR, agreed with the ban. 

USA Today

But now, it’s Nike's carbon blade and air-foam footwear models in their Vaporfly range, which are the subject of controversy, as athletes who compete with them, keep shattering world records. According to data published in The New York Times: «In the final months of 2019, about 41 percent of marathons under three hours were reported to have been run in these shoes». 

Nike

Long distance Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran with them when he broke the two-hour barrier for the first time at the Chicago marathon last October. Then, Brigid Kosgei, another Kenyan, the very next day, wore the same shoes and smashed the women’s world record at the finish line. 

Thomas Lovelock for The INEOS 1:59 Challenge

According to The Times of London, World Athletics - the sports’ governing body, is now considering banning Nike’s Vaporfly models for future competitions. 

But what is it that makes them so special? 

In Nike’s own words: «The Vaporfly has a built-in secret weapon, a full-length, carbon fiber plate underfoot, which provides a propulsive sensation to help the runner push the pace and an ultra-light foam in the forefoot, that delivers exceptional energy return». It’s the combination of these factors that has opponents, a group of 20 marathon runners - the majority of whom wear Adidas - crying foul, claiming it artificially boosts performances and calling for experts to look into the technology.


Nike

According to Running magazine, the new rules may only require that Nike’s engineers modify the thickness of the midsole – thus lessening the mechanical advantage. A decision is expected by the end of January. 

Whatever World Athletics’ final word, it’s unlikely to hurt the company’s bottom line as performance running shoes are only a small fraction of its business. Nike still comes out a huge winner for having made the fastest shoe ever and by creating such a turmoil.

American and Swiss, Emily Turrettini has been writing on internet news and trends since 1996. She is currently published as a blogger on the prestigious swiss newspaper Le Temps


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