The Olympic motto – Citius, Altius, Fortius – Communiter in Latin and Higher, Stronger, Faster – Together in English, has historically applied to the performance of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes. As composite materials are used by more sports equipment manufacturers, the motto now applies to the shoes, bicycles, and more used by today’s competitors.
Discovering materials that increase the strength and decrease the weight of the equipment that athletes use leads to faster times and better performance.
The use of Kevlar, often used in anti-ballistic applications, in kayaks allows for structurally sound boats that resist cracking and shattering. Graphene and carbon fiber are used in canoes and boat hulls to add strength and reduce weight while simultaneously increasing glide.
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are frequently used in sporting equipment because of their higher strength and specific stiffness as compared to conventional materials. Wilson Sporting Goods created tennis balls with nanomaterials that help the ball maintain its shape by limiting air loss when the ball is hit and allow them to hold their bounce longer. Fiber-reinforced polymers are used in tennis racquets as well, adding flexibility and improving durability and performance.
CNTs are used to manufacture golf balls adding advantages such as strength, durability, and abrasion resistance. CNTs and carbon fiber are also used in golf clubs to reduce the weight and the torque of the clubs while adding stability and control.
Track bicycles are now lightweighted with all carbon fiber frames and feature disc wheels created from a single piece of carbon fiber, reducing the weight of the bicycle and reducing wear and tear on the wheels. Some cyclists are even wearing carbon fiber shoes to protect their feet without adding weight.
Carbon fiber has even found its way into the pool, as swimwear company Arena uses carbon fiber in its high-tech racing suits to add flexibility, compression, and durability.
For a look at the use of composite materials during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, please visit this Composites Manufacturing magazine post: The Highly-Engineered World of Olympic Sports.