What a drag!

What a drag!

Scientists are helping athletes to go faster

Olympic athletes aren't just competing against each other. They're competing against the air!

Every time we move, we have to push millions of air molecules out of the way. Pushing these air molecules out of the way slows us down a tiny bit. This is called drag.

For us, walking about every day, drag isn't a big deal. For Olympic athletes, where microseconds count in the chase for medals, drag is very important.

Runners and cyclists have to fight against drag from air molecules. Swimmers have to fight against drag from water molecules.

Coaches and sports scientists want to reduce drag to help their athletes go faster. How do they do that?

Swimming

Swimsuits, caps and goggles are the most important pieces of kit an Olympic swimmer has.

Swimmer_dv1983007

Swimsuit makers get their inspiration from animals that live in the oceans.

These animals, like dolphins and sharks, are very streamlined. They are adapted to reduce drag as they move through the water.

Speedo has created caps that fit exactly to their athlete's heads.

The special caps have fewer wrinkles than a normal cap. This makes the cap smoother and reduces drag, a bit like the smooth skin on a dolphin.

Speedo's swimsuits use Lycra panels to squash the athlete's fleshy areas - their thighs, bottom and chest. This makes the athletes more streamlined and reduces drag.

Cycling

Like swimmers, cyclists were tight outfits called skinsuits. These skinsuits are made especially for each athlete. This means that there is less material for air molecules to press against and cause drag.

Cyclist_dv843023

Bikes are made out of very light material. You could lift them with one hand!

The tubes aren't round, like normal bikes. Instead, they are shaped like birds wings, pointing backwards in a V. This special shape helps to push air molecules around the bike and reduces drag.

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