10 Weird Things You'll See During The Olympics

The Olympics are the pinnacle of athletic achievement. There is no elite athlete who doesn't strive to wear their country's colors in the opening ceremony and hear their national anthem standing atop the podium. And just as the Olympics are known as the ultimate showcase of athleticism, they have also become known as a place for the most well-researched and highly tested tech innovations to make their debuts.

Researchers are constantly trying to figure out how to give athletes an edge over the competition, in every discipline. In 2008, for example, those full-body LZR swimsuits facilitated a host of new world records that year. And while the right running shoe won't make a sprinter minutes faster, it can help improve her speed by fractions of a second. At the Olympics, those fractions can be the difference between a medal or no medal.

Eventually, these athletic innovations trickle down to stores and gyms around the country so we can take advantage of the increased comfort, performance, and aerodynamics, too.

Ultimately, it's an athlete's job to make his body as fast and strong as can be. But the right piece of gear can prove essential in their quests for golden glory. Click through to see the amazing gear that this year's Olympians will sport on the track, in the pool, and at the net.

This piece originally ran July 25, 2016.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
At first glance, that yellow patch looks a bit like KT Tape, the elastic therapeutic tape that athletes will wear in strategic places to provide muscle support.

But those black dots are the noticeable distinguishing factor: It's actually Nike's AeroSwift Tape, which was created by testing movement around the body in wind tunnels. Researchers wanted to find the exact shape and placement of tape that could reduce drag, so that athletes could move through the air more quickly and efficiently.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
The raised rubber nodes, or blades, on the tape are meant to move wind in specific directions around the body. The pattern of the AeroBlades on the tape, along with where the tape is placed on the legs and arms, is different for various track and field events, since the positioning depends on the speed the athlete is running at (someone running a marathon is running at a much different speed than a sprinter).

Before the removable tape is applied, the athlete's skin is cleaned with alcohol. Then, a spray adhesive is applied to the skin and the tape is applied. That ensures it will stay on, even when an athlete starts to sweat more heavily.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
Those same raised AeroBlade nodes are included on the Vapor kits that Nike's track and field athletes, including Allyson Felix, will be wearing, from their arm sleeves down to her legs. These are made of recycled polyester material.
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Photo: Courtesy of Speedo.
You'll see swimmers such as Missy Franklin hit the water in Speedo's new LZR Racer X suit. The suit has laser-cut straps to ensure it lays flat against the body (preventing any drag in the water) and helps improve range of motion through the arms.

The "X"-shaped seams that you can see around Franklin's abs are intended to stabilize her core as she kicks through the water. The suit also has a vertical stretch to help with flexibility in forward starts off the block and turns at the wall.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
Some swimmers will also sport Speedo's Fatskin3 Cap, which uses what the company has termed "IQfit" technology. Using 3-D head scans, researchers can make a precise fit so that the silicone cap will align with the contours of a swimmer's head. The closer the fit, the less chance that water will leak in and create drag.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
Speedo's Fatskin3 Elite Goggles have a 3-D goggle seal that helps the goggles conform to the eyes more closely and ensures that no water leaks in. The lenses also have an anti-fog coating to prevent condensation from forming.

When used in conjunction with the cap, the goggles can reduce drag in the water by up to 5.7%. That might not sound like a lot, but it can make the difference at the finish, as one swimmer barely out-touches another for gold.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
The decathlon is one of the most mentally and physically grueling competitions of the games. An athlete puts their body through 10 total track and field events (including the long jump, shot put, and hurdles), each of which uses different skill sets and requires maximum focus and preparation.

When reigning Olympic champ (and current Vogue cover star) Ashton Eaton goes for gold in Rio, you might see him wearing an odd-looking cooling hood created for him by the Nike Sports Research Lab.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
Its purpose: to help Eaton recover faster between events by quickly cooling down his head, one of the most temperature-sensitive parts of the body. You can think of the hood as a highly effective air conditioner for your face. Its inner layers contain cold water, and the design targets the head, neck, and areas around the eyes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
If you've ever worn spikes on the bottom of your running shoes, you know that the sensation is drastically different than a flat shoe. Spikes — sharp points strategically placed along the sole of the shoe — bring you up on your toes. They propel your body forward, which makes them perfect for sprinters, whose forward motion is paramount.

Nike designed custom spikes for elite runners such as Allyson Felix and Shelly-Anne Fraser-Price that are specific to each runner's speed and foot size.

The ideal spike is a stiff, rigid structure, helping the foot hit the ground with more force, while still feeling light. The arrangement of the spikes along the sole of Nike's track shoes are modeled off of geometrical structures from nature — it's almost honeycomb-like.

The result is something that is delicate looking, but powerful.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
The bright color gradients on Nike's track and field spike shoes are meant to resemble the iridescent wings of tropical birds and insects in flight — a nod to the fact that the athletes' bodies are in flight, as well.

To create and test different prototypes of the shoes more quickly, early models of the spikes were made using 3-D printing. The final products were fashioned using an injected plastic material.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
Modeled after your body's tendons (strong, but light), the lenses of the Nike Wing glasses are meant to increase airflow and reduce fogging for track and field athletes. The ultra-light lens has a silicone nose piece and back band that are moisture-resistant, so they won't slide off of athletes faces as they sweat.

Running in them felt almost supernatural when I took them for a test around the track. Everything had a darker, glare-reduced tint, and I could feel cool air flowing through, but they were lightweight enough that it didn't feel as though I was wearing anything on my face.
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Photo: Courtesy of Oakley.
For volleyball players, cyclists, golfers, and triathletes — all of whom also have to contend with the sun in competition — reducing glare is a must. Oakley is hoping that its Green Fade glasses, which will be worn by volleyball champ Kerri Walsh and Olympic triathlete Gwen Jorgensen, will block out those harsh rays of light.
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Photo: Courtesy of Oakley.
The lenses of the glasses have Prizm technology, the same technology that Oakley uses in its snow and ski goggles. The Prizm lenses reduce glare but also have color tuning (the cool-looking gradation in Walsh's shades here) that works kind of like an Instagram filter.

The lens is designed to pick up on certain wavelengths of color and filter out others. This enhances contrast and makes objects appear sharper. So, as that volleyball flies over the net, Walsh can see it more clearly against the bright sky and get in the perfect position to spike it.
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Photo: Courtesy Puma.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt will attempt to break yet another record at this year's Olympics, when he tries to be the first athlete to earn gold in the 4-by-100-meter relay and the 100- and 200-meter distances. He'll perform his iconic "Lightning Bolt" salute in Puma's Jamaican federation kit.

The track suit is made of compression fabric with six-way stretch, which is intended to help with circulation and apply optimal pressure to muscles.
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Photo: Courtesy Puma.
The suit also has ACTV taping built in. Like Nike's innovative AeroSwift tape, this is another take on the traditional KT tape, and is intended to provide muscle support.
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