A Track Built for Speed Is Already Producing Records

TOKYO — The clock stationed simply previous the end line flashed 10.60 seconds and the letters “NEW OR,” which means “new Olympic record,” when Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica gained the ladies’s 100 meters on Saturday evening.

Thompson-Herah had not solely retained the 100-meter Olympic title she gained in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, however she had accomplished so by shattering Florence Griffith Joyner’s document set in 1988. (Thompson-Herah’s official time within the document books is 10.61.)

One day later, Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy produced an much more beautiful time — 9.80 seconds — to win the boys’s 100, changing into the shock winner of the race to supplant Usain Bolt because the world’s quickest man. Jacobs was little recognized earlier than storming to the quickest time in an Olympic last by a person not named Bolt.

Both runners beamed after their races. But so did an nameless determine wearing a shirt and slacks in a seat overlooking the observe: Andrea Vallauri, worldwide supervisor for Mondo, the Olympic observe provider.

He is accountable for supplying the world’s quickest runners with the world’s quickest observe. And his floor already has world information underneath menace.

Since Friday — the primary day of the observe and area competitors — information and private bests have tumbled. Heat after warmth, the scoreboard has flashed notations indicating that non-public bests or nationwide information have been eclipsed.

Six girls ran underneath 11 seconds within the girls’s 100 last, together with Shericka Jackson, whose 10.76 was the quickest third-place end at an Olympics. On Sunday, Jacobs, an unheralded sprinter who had specialised within the lengthy leap till 2018, set a European document within the males’s 100 last.

“It’s new for Tokyo,” Vallauri mentioned of the observe’s lightning-fast floor. “We had a special ambition to come up with something different.”

While Olympic Stadium, designed by Kengo Kuma, has gained reward for the way in which the enormous bowl laced with wood eaves has allowed it to mix into its environment, none of that basically issues to the athletes performing inside it. What is much extra necessary to a lot of them is the floor they’re required to dash, hop, skip and leap on.

For Vallauri, the early indicators from the observe competitors have been an Olympic triumph of a special type. Mondo, which has now designed 12 Olympic tracks, spent virtually three years developing with the floor in use in Tokyo: street testing completely different variations, sourcing supplies, experimenting with completely different sorts of rubber. Along the way in which, Mondo requested athletes for their desire, the equal of a style take a look at of a brand new recipe for a well-recognized comfortable drink.

The solutions the corporate acquired, Vallauri mentioned, have been unanimous. “The feedback from the athletes was the same,” he mentioned. “This one.”

Armed with that suggestions, designers on the Mondo manufacturing unit in Alba, Italy, close to Turin, experimented with various kinds of rubber earlier than incorporating three-dimensional granules of their last design. The floor that resulted, in line with Vallauri, permits shock absorption and vitality return “like a trampoline.”

Those who’ve run on it have mentioned the identical.

“You can feel the bounce,” mentioned Sydney McLaughlin, a favourite within the girls’s 400-meter hurdles. “Some tracks just absorb your bounce and your motion; this one regenerates it and gives it back to you.”

Thompson-Herah recommended that had she not begun her celebration a number of yards earlier than the end line, she may need threatened Griffith Joyner’s world document of 10.49. “I could have gone faster if I wasn’t pointing and celebrating early,” she mentioned.

Her efficiency mirrored others throughout the primary two days of competitors: Times have exceeded expectations.

In a sport with recurring problems with doping, standout performances can fall underneath suspicion. But Vallauri and athletes say the “bouncy” observe, as a number of described it, is enjoying a giant function (together with high-performance footwear and even the hot summer air).

Vallauri mentioned he anticipated the $1.5 million observe to supply a good thing about as a lot as 2 % to rivals. When information are damaged by hundredths of a second, that might be the distinction.

Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Ivory Coast was in a state of disbelief after studying how briskly she had run within the first spherical of the 100-meter heats on Friday. “I really didn’t expect to run as fast as I just did,” she mentioned. She went on to complete fourth within the last.

After easing by way of her warmth on Saturday, McLaughlin, 21, recommended the Tokyo observe was a menace to the historical past books.

“A world record is possible,” she mentioned of the hurdles. “It is a really great group of girls, so I wouldn’t put it past anybody to go out and do it.”

While the identify Mondo is probably going unfamiliar to most sport followers, it has instantaneous identify recognition with athletes. More than half of the world information set within the final 20 years have been on tracks designed by the Italian firm, the corporate mentioned.

“We were watching the girls yesterday and we said, ‘OK, this track is fast,’” the South African sprinter Gift Leotlela mentioned after sealing his qualification place within the 100-meter semifinals.

The observe has provided help not solely to those that need to run rapidly, but in addition to those that propel themselves into the air. After competing within the lengthy leap {qualifications}, Samory Fraga of Brazil mentioned the floor was ok to threaten information.

On Sunday, within the triple leap, Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela soared out to 15.67 meters, or virtually 51 toes 5 inches, to beat a world document that had remained in place since 1995 and an Olympic document from 2008. Rojas was not alone in her disbelief; her rivals additionally stared, eyes vast, when the stadium’s video display screen confirmed her profitable mark.

For some athletes, a observe just like the one they’re encountering in Tokyo does have some drawbacks: It is pushing their our bodies in ways in which slower surfaces usually don’t.

The French sprinter Jimmy Vicaut, who ran a season’s finest to make the 100 semifinals, mentioned coaching on such a floor could be “too dangerous” as a result of it may simply threat muscular accidents. Gavin Smellie of Canada mentioned the observe was so unforgiving that he modified the way in which he usually ready for a race.

“It makes your body feel sore, especially the following day,” he mentioned. To accommodate that, Smellie mentioned, he moved his coaching schedule 24 hours earlier to present himself extra time to get well.

The pursuit of quick instances has pushed a number of athletes too far. After operating a private finest to achieve the boys’s 100-meter last, Enoch Adegoke of Nigeria failed to complete the race, reaching for his hamstring after about 20 meters. Other runners, together with Dina Asher-Smith of Britain, mentioned they aggravated accidents.

Still, for probably the most half, these considerations took a again seat to the search for information and to reward for the floor on which they might be pursued.

Developments in observe expertise, just like the developments in shoe design, have raised questions on how a lot help athletes needs to be allowed, and whether or not it was honest that information set in several circumstances at the moment are in danger.

To mitigate a few of these benefits, observe and area’s governing physique, World Athletics, has stipulated limits for tracks akin to these in place for footwear, together with limits on the vary of shock absorption, vitality return and thickness.

To Vallauri, although, the mission is a straightforward one: Provide a floor on which Olympic athletes can thrive, no matter their self-discipline, no matter their standing. He likened the observe to the tires within the elite Formula 1 racing sequence.

“If the tire is the same for all the cars, then it’s fair,” he mentioned.

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