Scott: The athletes competing now in Sochi have spent years preparing for their shot at Olympic gold. But victory sometimes depends on some other people who have been at it for years too – engineers!
When you think of the Winter Olympics experts say think of them as the ultimate race in technology. Take the skeleton competition, for example. Athletes zoom around the track at 80 mph, head first with no steering system other than their bodies. It is the reason four teams of engineers took five years to design this year’s sled.
Jennifer Bogo: I think that when you are talking about this kind of equipment, they are just shaving off hundredths of a second.
Scott: The biggest change? The steel frame where athletes lay in the skeleton sled is molded to fit their individual body shape. The two-person bobsled was also overhauled. Team USA enlisted the help of engineers from the car company BMW in the hopes of bringing home their first medal in the event since 1952. The result? A fifteen-pound lighter bobsled that was more aerodynamic.
Bogo: They actually redistributed the weight in the bobsled to lower its center of gravity, which also made it faster.
Scott: Some new technology found its way onto the slopes as well. New fabric used on the Team USA suits was modeled after sharkskin. Scientists found that fabric with a little bit of a dimple, or texture, created a faster surface than material that was smooth. And engineers are constantly tweaking and making changes even now on the ground in Sochi. They want athletes to perform at the highest level with a leg up from the latest technology.