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AP

Olympic track designer claims surface provides 1-2% boost as records fall

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Norway's Karsten Warholm reacts as he wins and breaks the world record ahead of second-placed USA's Rai Benjamin in the men's 400 m hurdles final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021.

Norway's Karsten Warholm (left) reacts as he wins and breaks the world record ahead of second-placed USA's Rai Benjamin (right) in the men's 400m hurdles final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

No one needs a fast lane when all the lanes are fast.

With several track and field records falling at the Tokyo Olympics, one of the people who helped design the track is claiming the surface itself provides a 1% to 2% boost for athletes.

“It is completely within the rules but it is also what we were asked to provide,” Andrea Vallauri told the Guardian. “In lab testing we can see the improvement. It is difficult to say exactly but maybe a 1-2 percent advantage.”

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The track in Tokyo’s National Stadium became a major story after the men’s 400-meter hurdles final, where the first- and second-place finishers smashed the world record. Norway’s Karsten Warholm broke the 46-second barrier to win gold in 45.94 seconds. American Rai Benjamin took silver.

“That track is crazy,” Warholm said. “But it’s not just the track, it was the guys as well, pushing each other on.”

Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica won the women’s 100 meters in an Olympic record 10.61 seconds, which helped fast-track the speedy speculation.

Vallauri, whose company Mondo also designed the track at Rio 2016, said the surface was designed to be very thin and give runners a boost.

“In the lower layer of the track is this hexagonal design that creates these small pockets of air,” he told the Guardian. “They not only provide shock absorption but give some energy return; at the same time a trampoline effect. We have improved this combination and this is why we are seeing the track has improved performance.”

When Mondo partnered with the Olympics to design the track, the company promised “to help [Olympians] record their fastest times ever.” So far, so fast.

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