2012 London Olympics: US Speed Suits Could Make All the Difference

Mary O'ConnorCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2012

Many Olympic races come down to the wire, prompting athletes to see a photo finish or even look to the spectators for their reaction, which is a nerve-wracking exercise to say the least.

The last Summer Olympics was no stranger to this occurrence, as the margin for error in the sprint events was minimal. A bad start can easily translate into a loss of a medal, and with the talent at this year's sprint events more fruitful than ever, every little bit helps.

In order to squeeze every millisecond out of their athletes, the U.S. has looked to its uniforms in order to nullify any outside influences, such as aerodynamic drag. The infamous speed suits are environmentally friendly—each one composed of 13 plastic bottles, a trend Nike has been famous for since restructuring its image during the last decade 

Considering the unique manner in which they are designed, the suits are aesthetically pleasing, painted a shiny red and have an impacted superhero look to them.

The dimples that appear on the suit are strategically placed, allegedly increasing the athletes’ efficiency. What’s even more impressive is that they can help shave off up to 0.023 seconds of an athlete’s time.

This figure may seem minuscule, but there have been many Olympic medal losses that were the result of such a tiny margin.

The Daily Mail reported Nike's creative director as saying:

"We couldn't believe the numbers," said Martin Lotti, Nike's Olympics creative director. "That's not just the difference between first and second place, it's about making the podium."

If Nike’s claims are accurate, the results yielded from the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the spirited sprint events might have been different.

U.S. Olympic 200-meter specialist Muna Lee was pushed back into the dreaded fourth position by Kerron Stewart of Jamaica by a mere 0.01 seconds. Hypothetically speaking, if Lee had been donning the speed suit, she could have clutched the bronze.

Another U.S. athlete, Walter Dix, missed out on the silver medal by a hair in the 100 meters. Dix charged through the line in 9.91 seconds—a lifetime best. But alas, Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago was actually 0.02 seconds ahead of him.

What’s even better news for the U.S. sprinters is that Nike is only sharing these suits with the Russian and German athletes. Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake will be sporting Puma, while Thompson is going to be representing Adidas. This is great news for Team USA’s trio of Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey.

If actions speak louder than words, and the suit does in fact shave 0.023 seconds off a 100-meter time, then the U.S. athletes could indeed have a technical advantage over their athletic counterparts.