U.S. Uniforms Offer Latest in Material Tech for Athletes

The Speedo LZR Racer line of swimsuits (which we chronicled a while back here) is far from alone in changing the look and feel of sportswear for American athletes at the Olympics. With basketball and track and field heating up in Beijing, attention is focusing on the enhancements offered by the uniforms being worn by the U.S. teams in those sports.

The U.S. men's basketball team is, without doubt, the highest profile squad of athletes at the Games. Dubbed the "Redeem Team," for its goal of redeeming the disappointing Bronze Medal performance in 2004 in Athens, the American hoopsters represent the elite of the professional ranks from the Unites States. Led by superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Team USA is the overwhelming favorite to strike gold this year. Today, they romped to an easy 106-57 victory over a talented German national team, in early competition in the medals bracket.

Plus, they looked good in their specially designed uniforms developed by Nike Inc., of Beaverton, Ore., which has gone to great lengths to ensure the Americans can play at their highest level. Before the squad traveled to China, Nike showcased the new outfits at a press conference in New York City (see the press release) in which the company outlined the technology behind the togs called the Nike Swift System of Dress. These include overall lighter weight (by 31 percent), an engineered mesh that provides zoned cooling, and an etched graphic design that allows greater airflow.

Not wanting to let the track and field team down, Nike has also developed performance wear for the men and women who are running, jumping, and throwing at the Bird's Nest in Beijing. The Nike USA Track and Field (USATF) uniforms are also the product of years of research and development. The company says the USATF outfits also employ its Swift System materials and design features, intended to reduce weight and drag on runners. It has also even developed custom gloves and socks featuring dimpled surfaces to cut down on wind resistance, which Nike claims can cut drag on portions of a runner's body by as much as 19 percent.

Oh, and Nike has designed advanced footwear for the athletes, as well.

The U.S. teams will not be the only national contingents donning new streamlined uniforms in Beijing. Other nations are outfitting their athletes in the latest gear from Nike and its sportswear competitors. The Americans simply get to use them for free, as a promotional effort.

It does make one wonder, though, about the spirit of pure competition at the Olympic Games when Kobe Bryant gets an advantage for playing in a technically superior garment that the high-priced star gets to wear for nothing.

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