Gearing Up

Maybe engineers and designers should get Olympic medals. In the pole vault, heights jumped 30% with the switch from bamboo to fiber-glass and carbon- composite poles. Tracks have been resurfaced to give runners more bounce and speed, and pools have been designed to dampen wave action that buffets swimmers. Some athletes fear their events could become contests of equipment and facilities, but as any coach would admit, it still takes a great swimmer to bring out the best in a great pool.

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