Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Suit

Since we're at a speed week, it probably makes sense to explain speed suits in more detail. The need for speed suits is apparent -- this is a game of fractions of seconds and wind resistance is an important factor.
When the first speed suits were introduced in the late 1960's, there were no quality or safety controls. Naturally things got out of hand in a hurry, and soon folks were wearing suits so slick that a person actually accelerated if they sat on the ground. Fortunately the FIS got a handle on this and there's now a standard for suits. Every suit worn in a FIS sanctioned event must go through a "plomb" test to determine how much pressure is required to push a measure of air through the fabric. This prevents fabrics from being so slick as to be dangerous.

How big is the advantage a speed suit gives? It's significant! As a rule of thumb the difference between a speed suit or regular attire over a 1 minute long GS course is about 1.5 seconds. So everyone searches for ways to make suits faster within the parameters set by FIS. Last year the US had "slippery suits" made especially for the Olympics. These suits supposedly gave a significant advantage over the average stuff. This year the "gig is up" and everyone has access to these suits. Scott is pictured above in this year's US Team suit.
But wait, there's more to this. Scott has two different types of suits, padded and unpadded. Athletes never wear pads for Downhill. They sometimes wear pads for Super G and always wear pads for Giant Slalom and Slalom. However, we've learned that the suits with sewn in pads are not as slick as those without, so athletes now wear "stealth" pads under the unpadded suits in Super G and Giant Slalom.
OK, enough of that stuff. Today was the first Downhill race of the NORAM season. Scott skied well, except for missing his line in one critical spot. It cost him lots of time so he settled for 12th place of 99 in this elite field. He lowered his FIS points, picked up a nice sum of NORAM Cup points, beat the entire "D" Team, plus earned the Juniors (age 19 and under) bronze medal. His goal tomorrow is to take the whole thing... we'll see.

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