The high-tech tracks and pools at Rio 2016 have helped runners, cyclists and swimmers to deliver their best performances
The world’s elite athletes have a valuable ally in their quest to excel – technology. As in all Olympic Games, records are being broken at Rio 2016, notably in swimming, athletics and cycling. The design of the venues has had a big part to play in these achievements.
That was the case with the Olympic Velodrome. Four world records were broken at the venue in two days, including the women's team sprint, in which China brought its own record down to 31.928 seconds; the men's team pursuit, broken by Britain with a new time of three minutes and 50.265 seconds; the women's team pursuit, broken by the USA with four minutes and 12.282 seconds before Great Britain broke it again, setting a new time of four minutes and 10.236 seconds.
The surface, the same as that used at London 2012, is made of Siberian pine, a resistant material that is flexible enough to cope with the curvature required, to a minute level of precision. The wood also offers an exceptionally smooth surface, which makes the track quicker for cyclists.
Firm surface for fast times
The Olympic Stadium, home of the Rio 2016 athletics competition, has a very fast track according to Agberto Guimarães, who was one of the most successful Brazilian athletes in the 1500m and 800m events. “If the track is softer, it’s more pleasant to run on” he said. “But it needs to have a degree of firmness to offer more speed.”
The responsiveness of the track was subject to testing, as this is a factor that can affect the athletes’ velocity.
Three world records have been set in the Olympic Stadium in six days, two of which came on the track: the blistering performances of Wayde van Niekerk in the 400m (43.03 seconds), and Ethiopia’s Ayana Almaz in the 10,000m (29 minutes and 17.45 seconds).
Vision aids velocity
World records have also been tumbling in the pool at Rio 2016, with seven new marks set in eight days. A number of characteristics have helped in setting new fastest times: for example, the water circulation system keeps the pool overflowing, which minimises surface disturbances. The cleanliness of the main Rio 2016 pool also ensures high visibility, allowing swimmers to better judge their turns.
New world records at Rio 2016 included those set by American Katie Ledecky in 800m freestyle (eight minutes and 4.79 seconds) and 400m freestyle (three minutes and 56.46 seconds); Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom completed the 100m butterfly in 55.48 seconds; Hungary's Katinka Hozssu won the 400m medley in four minutes and 26.36 seconds and the Australians won the 4x100 freestyle relay in three minutes and 30.65 seconds. Amongst the men, Adam Peaty completed the 100m breaststroke in 57.55 seconds, and American Ryan Murphy took the 100m backstroke in 51.85 seconds.
By Denise Miras for Rio 2016