At the highest level of track and field, fractions of seconds can mean the difference between bringing home a medal and leaving empty-handed.
New technology unveiled in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics is offering athletes more of a record-shattering, jump-higher, run-faster edge than ever before.
In London, a new surface on the track offers a cushion for shock absorption and a solid upper layer for ultimate traction and slip resistance, eliminating the need for spikes on running shoes.
Other technological advances are also making track and field a more efficient sport during the Summer Olympics.
Improved electronic starting blocks detect not only movement but pressure, ensuring racing athletes have an equal start. Employing lasers, timers and video, the blocks measure the force of each runner's heel to detect whether the sole of his or her shoe left the block early. The new starting blocks are fixed, unlike previous models, which had roughly 5 millimeters room for error.
Another relatively new track and field technological innovation is the electronic starter pistol. When the trigger is pulled on the latest version, which debuted in Vancouver two years ago, the device issues a signal to broadcast the sound of a gunshot on loudspeakers at the starting line, emits simulated smoke, flashes a light and starts the timer.
Meanwhile, Nike introduced its Nike Pro TurboSpeed track suit, 2012 Track Spikes and Flyknit shoes to the public in February in New York.
The suit borrows part of its design from the golf ball. Strategically placed dimples reduce the athlete's aerodynamic drag. According to Nike, based on wind tunnel data, it is up to 0.023 seconds faster over 100 meters than the company's previous track uniform.
"At Nike the design process always starts with the voice of the athlete. We take insights and feedback from our athletes at every stage of the design process, and many of the team USA athletes have provided feedback on the 2012 System of Dress and Nike Pro TurboSpeed Suit," said Megan Saalfeld, a Nike spokeswoman.
The Nike Flyknit HTM Racer and Trainer is the company's latest running shoe. Made of a material resembling yarn, it is ultra light, seamless and molds itself to the foot like a sock.
Nike provides track and field apparel to the USA, Canada, China and Russia, she added.
Adidas introduced a spiked sprinting shoe, the 3.5-ounce adizero Prime SP in time for the Summer Olympics. Endorsed and worn by U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay (pictured below), the track cleats are, says Adidas, the lightest sprint spike ever made. Featuring a 1.3mm carbon plate and a nearly seamless SprintWeb upper, the shoe is 62 percent lighter than the adizero Demolisher worn during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Off the track and on the field, competitors in Summer Olympics discus and javelin throw contests are using projectiles made of composite material that is lighter, stronger and more rigid than that of older models.
Field athletes' results are also measured far more accurately with the help of laser instruments. These devices work with mounted lasers aimed at targets. They are used to measure results at throwing events and horizontal and vertical jumps.
As the Summer Olympics progress, there's little doubt those in the business of creating technology for the 2016 games are hard at work taking notes and imagining even more innovative ways to improve the sport.