There was a very interesting article in the recent issue of Fast Company entitled Innovation of Olympic Proportions. This article discussed how clothing and equipment manufacturers are innovating to give Olympic athletes critical, although seemingly marginal, advantages in their competitions. Here are a few examples:
- Adidas has a shoe for sprinters whose spike pattern leans a runner to the left. The reason is that there are no right turns on an oval track, so the shoes provide leftward propulsion.
- Speedo has a swimsuit that compresses swimmers' bodies at key points (buttocks, breasts and upper thighs) to reduce form drag, making them smaller and thus faster in the water. Speedo's ability to remold athletes into a more ideal hydrodynamic shape is already paying pronounced dividends: As of late May 2008, 41 world swimming records have been set since Speedo introduced its LZR Racer. An amazing 37 of those swimmers were wearing it.
- Javelins are being produced that reduce the two seconds during which javelins vibrate after they are released. This vibration hinders aerodynamic lift by distributing the flow of air around the shaft.
Many other examples of how small differences yield an enormous impact on the performance of the world's top contenders in a wide away of pursuits is the focus of The Power of Incremental Advantage: How Incremental Improvements Produce Dramatically Disproportionate Results.