The historic Olympic gold medal of Marcell Jacobs, the first Italian sprinter to climb the top step of the podium in the 100m specialty, is attracting attention, criticism and doubts.
After the specter of doping raised against Jacobs in recent days by the English press, it is now Usain Bolt to fiercely criticize the Italian champion. Because? Shoes used to win would be a “strange and unfair” innovation.
Jacobs’ magic shoes
That Usain Bolt did not like the comparisons with Jacobs too much was evident from the early hours: with a time below Bolt’s world record of only 22 thousandths, that of Jacobs is a medal that could not go unnoticed.
The Jamaican sprinter, involved in the press and fans on several occasions, has made it known through social media – and without too much diplomacy – that he does not appreciate comparisons with the Italian.
And he adds to the dose, declaring that the shoes used by Marcell Jacobs are a “strange and unfair” innovation and “bordering on ridicule”, capable of helping athletic performance by distorting the results of the competition.
What would be so special about Jacobs’ shoes, even defined as “magical”? They are called Nike MaxFly, they weigh 173 grams, they have a heel of just 20mm thick and a particular tip.
Most importantly, Jacobs shoes feature a carbon plate inside the sole, wider than the sole of the foot, which increases the athlete’s stability on the ground but is also ultimately responsible for the super spring effect criticized by Bolt.
The “magic” shoes would favor acceleration and progression: one more reason, on the part of the Jamaican sprinter, not to admit comparisons between his records and the new Olympic gold.
It is interesting to go and see what Marcell Jacobs thinks of his shoes defined as “ridiculous”: according to the coach Paolo Camossi, the Italian athlete finds the MaxFly “slightly penalizing in the first part and advantageous in the final”.
According to some analyzes, Jacobs’ high-tech shoes can improve the athlete’s speed by up to 8 cents – a more than decisive interval, in the 100 flat meters. However, these are footwear approved for the discipline by World Athletics and defined as regulations for the Tokyo Olympics.
Innovation and sport: from shark skin to carbon shoes
Sport, especially at the highest levels, has always been a territory of experimentation for cutting-edge materials and technologies: from the polystyrene helmet recently adopted by the cyclists of the Giro d’Italia to the “cheetah” prostheses in carbon fiber of Oscar pistorius, there are many contributions from technology to sport.
Among those who made people talk the most, Speedo’s “shark skin” costumes: Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe won three gold medals and broke three world records, wearing the particular one-piece swimsuit. It was 2000, and it was the Sydney Olympics.
Ten years later the International Swimming Federation (FINA) prohibited the use of polyurethane swimsuits in competitions: the use of so-called swimsuits LZR Racer, whose synthetic fibers mimic shark skin, reduce water friction by up to 24%.
Their introduction in 2008 led to the legendary European Championships in Croatia in which 17 world records fell in just a few days: FINA, at that point, could only take measures in terms of costumes.
Sport is now fully involved in the evolution of the latest generation techniques and materials, and indeed confirms itself as a privileged testing ground. It must be understood, as rightly observed by international analysts, how and to what extent the introduction of new technologies – often experimental – can favor the performance of athletes.
RThere is a fact, regarding the words of Usain Bolt: we do not know if Jacobs’ shoes will be approved by the World Athletics for the next Olympics, what is certain is that in Tokyo Marcell Jacobs was not the only one to wear them.
He was the only one, however, able to beat Bolt’s time Rio 2016 and win a gold medal which, as far as we know, will still be talked about.