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Technological advances in sport Add to ...

1954

New Gear

England's Roger Bannister searches all over Europe for the lightest shoes he can find and tracks down handmade leather spikes that weigh only four ounces, two ounces less than his old shoes.

New Record

On May 6, 1954, at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, Bannister becomes the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. After his record-setting race, finding the lightest spikes possible becomes an obsession for all runners.

1961

New Gear

Glass-fibre poles replace aluminum and steel, revolutionizing vaulting technique.

New Record

Over the next three years, the pole vault record shoots up 45 centimetres, to 5.28 metres from 4.83 metres. The record increased only about six centimetres between 1942 and 1960.

1996

New Gear

At the Atlanta Olympics, American Michael Johnson sports specially designed Nike spikes that weigh just 112 grams each, far lighter than his competitors' shoes, some of which weigh 150 grams or more.

New Record

Johnson becomes the first male athlete to win both the 200- and 400-metre sprints and sets a world record for the 200-metre race.

1996-97

New Gear

The clap skate, which alters a speed skater's stride and keeps the blade on the ice longer, is widely adopted by athletes though similar designs date to 1890.

New Record

At the 1997 World Cup Sprints in Calgary, 20 athletes wearing clap skates skate under world-record times.

2008

New Gear

Speedo launches the LZR Racer Suit, a NASA-inspired compression suit with polyurethane panels hailed as the world's fastest swimsuit. 

New Record

Michael Phelps wears the revolutionary suit at the Beijing Olympics and sets seven world records. More than 100 world records are set over the next year, with most of the credit given to the LZR Racer.

2009

New Gear

Arena introduces the X-Glide, a high tech full-body polyurethane speedsuit that is more aerodynamic and traps air more efficiently than Michael Phelps's LZR suit.

New Record

German swimmer Paul Biedermann defeats Michael Phelps in the 200-metre freestyle final at the world aquatics championships in Rome while wearing the Arena X-Glide. Biedermann also smashes Phelps's world record at the distance, one of the 35 world marks set with two days remaining in the meet. FINA, the international governing body of swimming, announces plans to ban the suits some time in 2010. 

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