Come this year's Olympic Games, competitors will be fighting more than just the world's finest sportspeople for glory. Holding the games in Rio has created another set of adversaries for athletes: bugs and bacteria in the air and water. The US Olympic rowing team will be going into battle with a new anti-microbial suit, designed to help keep them safe from whatever lurks within the contaminated waters in Lagoa Stadium.
The seamless unisuit has been developed by Mark Sunderland and Robert J. Rechlin, both of whom hold positions at Philadelphia University. New fiber blending technology allows the lightweight suit to go without seams, and the material is resistant to external moisture without sacrificing the wicking quality athletes crave from their clothes.
Perhaps more important than the suit's seamless design is the anti-microbial material knitted into it. Designers say it will provide an extra layer of protection against the murky waters at Lagoa Stadium, where reports have suggested athletes may be competing in water contaminated with anything from rubbish to untreated sewage.
"The seamless construction and other innovations in the unisuit take it to another level of technology in performance wear," says Sunderland. "We are setting a new standard of excellence in rowing apparel."
Although the suit sounds good in theory, the fact a rower's arms, chest, back and head are still exposed means it's not exactly a failsafe way of protecting them. It also doesn't do anything to prevent the bane of any rower's existence: blisters. That said, it'll be interesting to see if the unisuit and tights have an impact come the games.
As well as supplying US Rowers with the unisuit, the team has fitted Nigeria's first Olympic rower with one of the suits in the green and white of her nation's flag.
Source: Philadelphia University