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Olympics 2012

Inspired By Golf Balls, Nike's Bumpy Tracksuit May Help Sprinters Break Records

Nike’s new TurboSpeed suit is made from the equivalent of 13 plastic bottles per garment. It can also make runners .023 seconds faster over 100 meters—a massive boost.

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The current record for the 100-meter dash is more than three years old. It was set back in 2009 by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who ran it in 9.58 seconds. The women’s record is even older—it was set by Florence Griffith-Joyner24years ago.

Both records will be challenged by professional athletes in London two months from now, and Nike has unveiled the high-tech garment that will empower athletes from America, Germany, China, and Russia to do so.

The TurboSpeed is a super-light track suit that Nike claims will improve 100-meter dash times by as much as .023 seconds. To put that into perspective, in the 2008 Olympics 100-meter men’s final, .023 seconds would have been the difference between a personal best and a world record for the winner, Usain Bolt. It would have also been the difference between a 4th-place finish and a 3rd-place finish. Granted, we don’t know if that figure holds for the real world. But it is a remarkably big claim.

The mega-brand developed the suit over thousands of hours of wind tunnel tests, and as a result, it’s zoned with aerodynamic dimples that reduce drag on an athlete’s shoulders, arms, and calves (areas where resistance is strongest). How do these textured zones improve speed? They rely on the same science that explains the convex dimpled pattern found on golf balls. Those dimples help balls travel farther because they create low pressure turbulence in the boundary layer on the wind-facing side of the ball as it’s flying through the air, which ultimately means less drag behind the ball. The tiny circular shapes on Nike’s suit work according to the same principle.