At the 2012 Olympics it was the rumours that British Cycling had developed ‘extra round’ wheels that really got under the skin of their competitors. This week in Pyeongchang it is the skin suits of the British Skeleton Bob team that are causing controversy with their alleged drag reducing seams.
While the scientists will argue over whether these sort of equipment modifications make the sliders go faster and by how much, the real impact may well be all in the mind.
For the recipient of the rounder wheels or rougher seams it is the belief that you have a team behind you leaving no stone unturned that may give your performance a bigger edge than any bit of actual fancy technology. Likewise for a competitor feeling disadvantaged by their 'slower' suit, even if they are not, the belief that they can’t compete can drag their performance down.
On this subject of the mind influencing performance I’m looking forward to getting my hands on Alex Hutchinson’s new book. Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.