Last week, I read this online article about US winter team competing with 3D-printed sleds in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It immediately paid my attention mainly because it helped the US to win its first Olympic medal in a men’s luge singles event at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The new sled manufactured with 3D printing technology helped Chris Mazdzer to win the silver medal in a sport dominated over the years by European nations, mainly German and Austrian teams.
The author of the article, Jen Booton, is a senior writer at SportTechie covering the many ways technology is disrupting sports.
The real question is whether it is fair or not that a technological improvement in one athlete´s equipment can make him win a high-level sport competition in detriment of others who also deserved it because of their better performances or records in previous competitions. And what’s worse, it might mean for some of them to have thrown overboard years of hard work that should have paid off in the end. Not to mention their frustration.
This brings to mind the 1954 Soccer World Cup, held in Switzerland, where Germany defeated Hungary in the final. On that occasion, all pointed out that the impressive Hungarian team, full of star players, would be a sure bet to win. However, the German team played with improved football boots manufactured by Adidas, which introduced removable screw-in studs on the outsole allowing to adapt their footwear to weather and field conditions, whilst the Hungarian team used the then-conventional leather studs in their heavy soccer cleats. Apparently, it started to rain in the middle of the match giving the Germans a tangible advantage on the soaking wet pitch. To what extent did it contribute to make Germany win the World Cup? We will never know.
As a final point, I’d say that technology is increasingly involved in many sports, especially those ones using technical devices, such as yachting, cycling, canoeing, skiing or luge. To put it in a nutshell, although most credit must go to athletes themselves for their years of preparation and intense training, technological advances in the equipment can make the difference between winning or losing in high-level sport competitions like World championships or the Olympic Games.
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