Speedy Sportswear Sculpted On The Skin Of A Shark

By: Catherine Harvey

All eyes will be on the Beijing Olympics later this year. Not just for the sporting events but to see what everyone's wearing in the field of sportswear. Many new technologies are unveiled during such mammoth sporting events to assist the athletes in their bid for the split second advantage.

Every sport has its own distinct set of sportswear specifically designed to do many things other than make you look silly. I went white water rafting and felt a complete twit trussed up in swimsuit, wetsuit trousers, wetsuit top that did up beneath the undercarriage, helmet, boots and gloves.

After getting all that on, it was a mission just to get into the raft but boy was I glad for it later. After an hour of sweating with the sheer exertion of keeping the raft afloat through the rapids and the numerous soakings we suffered as well as the close shaves of pulling our heads back from the rocks, we were mighty glad we were prized into these suits.

Look back at the old sepia photos of your granddad playing football and apart from the fact that he has always looked that old, you will notice shorts big enough to camp out in. Of course, advances in fabric technology means that in the arena of football and rugby, the players lives are made that little bit easier with new sportswear designed with more that comfort in mind.

Sweat-wicking is the latest phrase bandied about in the football/rugby world. This means that sportswear fabric is needed that will stop heavy sweat hanging around on the clothes. If they can do this, surely we could get to a point where we don't need tumble driers for any clothes? We could just wash them, put them on and run around really fast so the water is evaporated into the atmosphere.

Rugby shirts have recently been changed to be more tight fitting while still allowing movement. This prevents opponents being able to get a good grip on them. They are also now equipped with rubberized grips on the shoulders and torso which enables better grip on the ball and within the scrum.

All in one running suits have been developed that create 1lb less drag and giving the athlete a 10cm advantage over a distance of 100m. This can make all the difference if racing against someone in your average chav style trackies!

Many athletes like to keep an eye on heart rates with monitors while training. Sportswear is now being constructed using fibres that can grip these monitors, thus removing the need to wear a restrictive and uncomfortable chest strap.

Golfing hardly comes across as a sport where you are going to exert yourself too much. Images of gentle folk strolling around the golf course in their Pringle pastels in diamond patterns hardly conjure up the traditional image of 'sportsmen' or 'sportswear'.

However, it is a sport and there is a lot of money at stake for the big players so sportswear is actually important to them.

It's not all about what you see on the outside. It's often what's going on underneath that counts. Vests with extra strong webbing across the back and shoulders is excellent news for golfers where repetitive arm swinging is obvious.

One of the biggest Olympic events will be the swimming. To see these athletes glide through the water at a ridiculous rate of knots and making it look so easy is amazing to see. And this is one area where sportswear comes into its own.

Using NASA technology and in conjunction with shark experts from the Natural History Museum, scientists have come up with a swimwear fabric that emulates shark skin. Sharks are one of the oceans most powerful creatures that can speed through the water at 100mph (unofficial figure) and this is what has influenced scientists to help swimmers achieve their goals.

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