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ARCHIVED - Photo essay: Science of the Olympics

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  • photo
  • Physics takes to the air
  • Bodies in motion
  • Going for green
  • Speed testing
  • Getting into position
  • Tiny but strong
  • Lightweight protection
  • Low-tech timing
  • Faster than the blink of an eye
  • Laser versus infrared
  • Staying in sync
  • Making heat from ice
  • Protecting Whistler’s waterways
  • Video
 2002 Olympian Catriona LeMay Doan tests a speed skating suit in NRC’s wind tunnel.

Speed testing

From the mid-1970s until the early 1980s, Canada's men's alpine racing team owned the podium. They were nicknamed "the Crazy Canucks" for their wild racing style. But they also knew that in a sport where hundredths of a second can knock you off the podium, aerodynamics is an important winning factor. Team member Steve Podborski spent time in NRC's wind tunnel testing the aerodynamics of his equipment. He won a bronze medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic games and managed 19 top three finishes on the World Cup circuit between 1980 and 1982. Two decades later, Canadian speed skater Catriona LeMay Doan visited the NRC wind tunnel before the 2002 Winter Games. After testing the aerodynamic qualities of six different suits, she won a gold medal in Salt Lake City. Today, wind-tunnel testing is a routine part of preparations for Canada’s speed skating team.

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