Sports

An Olympic Track Built for Speed Is Already Producing Records

TOKYO — The clock stationed simply previous the end line flashed 10.60 seconds and the letters “NEW OR,” which means “new Olympic file,” when Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica received the ladies’s 100 meters on Saturday evening.

Thompson-Herah had not solely retained the 100-meter Olympic title she received in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, however she had finished so by shattering Florence Griffith Joyner’s file set in 1988. (Thompson-Herah’s official time within the file books is 10.61.)

At some point later, Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy produced an much more beautiful time — 9.80 seconds — to win the boys’s 100, changing into the shock winner of the race to supplant Usain Bolt because the world’s quickest man. Jacobs was little identified earlier than storming to the quickest time in an Olympic ultimate by a person not named Bolt.

Each runners beamed after their races. However so did an nameless determine wearing a shirt and slacks in a seat overlooking the monitor: Andrea Vallauri, worldwide supervisor for Mondo, the Olympic monitor provider.

He’s chargeable for supplying the world’s quickest runners with the world’s quickest monitor. And his floor already has world data below menace.

Since Friday — the primary day of the monitor and discipline competitors — data and private bests have tumbled. Warmth after warmth, the scoreboard has flashed notations indicating that private bests or nationwide data have been eclipsed.

Six ladies ran below 11 seconds within the ladies’s 100 ultimate, together with Shericka Jackson, whose 10.76 was the quickest third-place end at an Olympics. On Sunday, Jacobs, an unheralded sprinter who had specialised within the lengthy bounce till 2018, set a European file within the males’s 100 ultimate.

“It’s new for Tokyo,” Vallauri mentioned of the monitor’s lightning-fast floor. “We had a particular ambition to give you one thing completely different.”

Whereas Olympic Stadium, designed by Kengo Kuma, has received reward for the best way the enormous bowl laced with picket eaves has allowed it to mix into its environment, none of that basically issues to the athletes performing inside it. What is much extra vital to lots of them is the floor they’re required to dash, hop, skip and bounce on.

For Vallauri, the early indicators from the monitor competitors have been an Olympic triumph of a unique kind. Mondo, which has now designed 12 Olympic tracks, spent virtually three years developing with the floor in use in Tokyo: street testing completely different variations, sourcing supplies, experimenting with completely different sorts of rubber. Alongside the best way, Mondo requested athletes for his or her choice, the equal of a style check of a brand new recipe for a well-recognized tender drink.

The solutions the corporate obtained, Vallauri mentioned, have been unanimous. “The suggestions from the athletes was the identical,” he mentioned. “This one.”

Armed with that suggestions, designers on the Mondo manufacturing unit in Alba, Italy, close to Turin, experimented with various kinds of rubber earlier than incorporating three-dimensional granules of their ultimate design. The floor that resulted, in response to Vallauri, permits shock absorption and vitality return “like a trampoline.”

Those that have run on it have mentioned the identical.

“You possibly can really feel the bounce,” mentioned Sydney McLaughlin, a favourite within the ladies’s 400-meter hurdles. “Some tracks simply take up your bounce and your movement; this one regenerates it and offers it again to you.”

Thompson-Herah urged that had she not begun her celebration a number of yards earlier than the end line, she may need threatened Griffith Joyner’s world file of 10.49. “I may have gone sooner if I wasn’t pointing and celebrating early,” she mentioned.

Her efficiency mirrored others throughout the primary two days of competitors: Instances have exceeded expectations.

In a sport with recurring problems with doping, standout performances can fall below suspicion. However Vallauri and athletes say the “bouncy” monitor, as a number of described it, is enjoying a giant position (together with high-performance sneakers and even the recent summer season air).

Vallauri mentioned he anticipated the $1.5 million monitor to supply a advantage of as a lot as 2 % to rivals. When data are damaged by hundredths of a second, that could possibly be the distinction.

Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Ivory Coast was in a state of disbelief after studying how briskly she had run within the first spherical of the 100-meter heats on Friday. “I actually didn’t anticipate to run as quick as I simply did,” she mentioned. She went on to complete fourth within the ultimate.

After easing by way of her warmth on Saturday, McLaughlin, 21, urged the Tokyo monitor was a menace to the historical past books.

“A world file is feasible,” she mentioned of the hurdles. “It’s a actually nice group of women, so I wouldn’t put it previous anyone to exit and do it.”

Whereas the title Mondo is probably going unfamiliar to most sport followers, it has immediate title recognition with athletes. Greater than half of the world data set within the final 20 years have been on tracks designed by the Italian firm, the corporate mentioned.

“We have been watching the ladies yesterday and we mentioned, ‘OK, this monitor is quick,’” the South African sprinter Present Leotlela mentioned after sealing his qualification place within the 100-meter semifinals.

The monitor has supplied help not solely to those that need to run shortly, but additionally to those that propel themselves into the air. After competing within the lengthy bounce {qualifications}, Samory Fraga of Brazil mentioned the floor was adequate to threaten data.

On Sunday, within the triple bounce, Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela soared out to fifteen.67 meters, or virtually 51 ft 5 inches, to beat a world file that had remained in place since 1995 and an Olympic file from 2008. Rojas was not alone in her disbelief; her rivals additionally stared, eyes huge, when the stadium’s video display screen confirmed her profitable mark.

For some athletes, a monitor just like the one they’re encountering in Tokyo does have some drawbacks: It’s pushing their our bodies in ways in which slower surfaces usually don’t.

The French sprinter Jimmy Vicaut, who ran a season’s finest to make the 100 semifinals, mentioned coaching on such a floor can be “too harmful” as a result of it may simply danger muscular accidents. Gavin Smellie of Canada mentioned the monitor was so unforgiving that he modified the best way he usually ready for a race.

“It makes your physique really feel sore, particularly the next day,” he mentioned. To accommodate that, Smellie mentioned, he moved his coaching schedule 24 hours earlier to present himself extra time to get well.

The pursuit of quick occasions has pushed a number of athletes too far. After operating a private finest to succeed in the boys’s 100-meter ultimate, Enoch Adegoke of Nigeria failed to complete the race, reaching for his hamstring after about 20 meters. Different runners, together with Dina Asher-Smith of Britain, mentioned they aggravated accidents.

Nonetheless, for essentially the most half, these considerations took a again seat to the hunt for data and to reward for the floor on which they’d be pursued.

Developments in monitor expertise, just like the developments in shoe design, have raised questions on how a lot help athletes must be allowed, and whether or not it was honest that data set in several situations at the moment are in danger.

To mitigate a few of these benefits, monitor and discipline’s governing physique, World Athletics, has stipulated limits for tracks akin to these in place for sneakers, together with limits on the vary of shock absorption, vitality return and thickness.

To Vallauri, although, the mission is a straightforward one: Present a floor on which Olympic athletes can thrive, no matter their self-discipline, no matter their standing. He likened the monitor to the tires within the elite Method 1 racing sequence.

“If the tire is similar for all of the vehicles, then it’s honest,” he mentioned.

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