Every year, athletes set new world records. But are today’s top performers really better than athletes of the past? Are sprinters faster or do they just have better shoes and bouncier tracks to run on? Are swimmers stronger or do they just have sleeker swimsuits?
In The Equalizer, Steve Haake, a top sports scientist based in the UK, investigates five major sporting events where technology is a factor. He travels to Canada, the US and Germany to meet five world-class athletes whose sport is impacted by the latest developments in technology:
• Canadian sprinter and Olympic hopeful Andre De Grasse
• US Olympic silver medalist and seven-time world champion track cyclist Sarah Hammer
• German world champion freestyle swimmer Paul Biedermann
• German javelin thrower Christina Obergföll
• Canadian kayaker and four-time Olympic medalist Adam van Koeverden.
For each of the athletes, Haake examines the variables that go into their winning performance – enhanced athletic gear, training, nutrition and psychology. Then, for the first time ever, Haake equalizes the playing field and challenges them to compete against a legendary athlete using equipment from a bygone era.
Sprinter Andre De Grasse must attempt to beat the world record of the legendary Jesse Owens, a four-time gold medalist at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, while wearing replicas of Owens’ shoes and running on a 1930s-era track. Sarah Hammer rides a 1960s-era bike to compete against British champion Beryl Burton, a seven-time World Champion. Paul Biedermann eschews his full body suit to compete against nine-time Olympic Champion Mark Spitz in his 1970s-era Speedo. Javelin Thrower Christina Obergföll competes against 1980s world record holder Fatima Whitbread using a javelin from her era. And Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden trades his computer-designed carbon fibre kayak for a vintage wooden model to challenge 1940s-era Swedish legend, eight-time Olympic medalist Gert Fredriksson.
Each equalizing matchup has a surprising result. The Equalizer finds out how much modern science and technology factors in to achieve new peaks of human performance.