Top tech innovations from 2012 Olympics
August, 13, 2012
By Charles Curtis | Special to ESPN.com
Stu Forster/Getty ImagesMo Farah used a free-weight system called RespiBelt to train before winning two gold medals.The final anthem has played, the torch has been passed to Brazil and even the Spice Girls reunited. But look back at London’s Olympic Summer Games with a more discerning eye -- countless athletes can credit cutting-edge technology that elevated some of them from also-rans to top of the podium. Here are five innovations that deserve gold medals of their own.
1. The RespiBelt
• Used by: 5,000-meter/10,000-meter gold medalist Mo Farah (Great Britain); 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp (USA)
• The innovation: Think of the RespiBelt, developed by Progressive Sports Technologies, as a free-weights routine for your breathing muscles. When attached to the chest and rib cage, it helps improve the efficiency of the muscles used while running. Both Farah and Rupp strapped the device to their chests as part of their training.
2. Stem cell therapy
John MacDougall/Getty ImagesRavel, ridden by Steffen Peters, underwent stem cell therapy to make it to London.
• Used by: Ravel, a dressage horse ridden by USA’s Steffen Peters
• The innovation: Stem cell procedures aren’t just helpful for humans like Oakland A’s hurler Bartolo Colon and Raiders LB Aaron Curry. After Ravel suffered a leg injury that could have ended his career, doctors used what was called "emergency treatment" that utilized stem cells removed from the horse’s bones. Although the 15-year-old gelding finished out of medal contention in London, just getting to the Games was no small feat.
3. Dartfish software
• Used by: Numerous athletes, including triple-gold medalist Usain Bolt
• The innovation: Using cameras filming at extremely high speeds and reflectors attached to body parts, Dartfish analysts can pinpoint exactly how an athlete needs to adjust technique, like a subtle change in the way a runner lifts a leg. They can also use “StroMotion,” which simultaneously displays each step of an athlete’s performance, as captured in this long jump.
4. Speedo’s Fastskin 3
Al Bello/Getty ImagesTyler Clary wore Speedo's new suit to a gold-medal finish.
• Used by: Gold-medal swimmers Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary (USA)
• The innovation: Telling Speedo its LZR suit was outlawed just seemed to motivate the maker of Team USA’s swimwear to work harder. The Fastskin 3 system, which includes a suit, goggles and cap, helps reduce what the company says is a drag reduction of up to 16.6 percent using a combination of "compression fabrics." The best feature? They’re perfectly legal.
5. Hyperbaric chamber
• Used by: 22-time medalist Phelps
• The innovation: Using a giant tent that simulates sitting in high altitudes is nothing new -- just ask pros from Caron Butler to, yes, Tim Tebow. But for Phelps, it actually was new. In 2011, the Olympic legend set his device to replicate oxygen levels at 8,000 feet. Phelps saw almost immediate results: improved recovery after workouts ... and another six medals to add to his hefty trophy case.