Athletics has become accustomed to living with controversy in recent times due to different factors. Some of these reasons are the new training methods typical of the new times, on other occasions the controls to detect prohibited substances or the list to choose which of these substances are allowed and which are not.
However, there is an element that has justifyed many debates and many discussions around the new direction that athletics is taking, particularly speed events, but also long distance events. In general, all those that involve a race to the finish line and that use this element to get an advantage. These are the new and controversial shoe models that have already received much criticism from very influential sectors that even threaten to destabilize athletics.
The controversial sneakers
The use of according to which shoes has focused much the debate on athletics in recent years, giving rise to many controversies, especially on the part of athletes, active and already retired, who consider illegal the new models created with increasingly lighter and lighter materials. They also offer a kind of boost in each step that, logically, helps in the race.
The debate has been established between those who consider that it is simply a technological advance in the use of these materials as has already occurred in previous times and those who fiercely criticize that it is an aberration to allow this type of elements that distort the performance of athletes, especially compared to their predecessors.
In particular, there is a type of shoe, known as ‘Super Spikes’ , which has been relatively new to the market and used on the track, which is centralizing this debate in a transcendental way. The records in this type of test are usually the most persecuted and some historical ones like Usain Bolt could see their mythical records jeopardized if these new weapons allow their competitors to go even faster than their own limits. The truth is that World Athletics has been trying to control a most controversial situation for several years now.
One of the most illustrious names who has participated in this debate criticizing the new advances, especially in the world of shoes, has been Usain Bolt, the fastest man in history, the king of the 100-meter sprint events, the 200 meters and the 4×100 relay with the Jamaican team. The retired runner despite being only 34 years old considers that with aids like those famous shoes, it is much easier to break historical records that have cost many years of effort and preparation in a situation that he does not see fair.
In fact, Bolt has built his criticism on his personal experience, since he considers that if he had been able to compete with those shoes or with a similar device, he could have lowered his stratospheric records even more. In addition, he has dared to predict that he believes that he could have broken an almost inhuman barrier, that of 9.50 seconds in the 100-meter dash. His current world record in this test is 9.58.
In view of what is being achieved and what he considers an act of permissiveness on the part of World Athletics, Bolt assumes that his records, despite being almost stratospheric, will end up falling because the aid received from this type of accessories, such as shoes in this case, are too decisive. Although he assures that he is not concerned and that it is the law of life, Bolt has not been able to avoid exploding before a case that he considers an outrage to his legacy. Of course, ‘the lightning bolt’ Jamaican believes that they will not break their barriers in the next Olympic Games, since they do not see any serious aspirant to steal that crown.
This debate that Usain Bolt has been in charge of stoking with the intention of protecting his legacy and his records is not new, but it already has a long history behind it. However, it could have had one of its highest and most controversial points when Eliud Kipchoge embarked on the challenge of lowering the mythical two-hour mark in running a marathon.
What began as a sporting goal for history ended up becoming a commercial show to promote shoes that were closer to technological doping than a simple tool to protect the feet in the race.
Finally, Kipchoge, along with the INEOS and Nike brands that paid for all the paraphernalia mounted around this challenge, ended up reaching their goal of getting less than two hours, since the athlete crossed the finish line in a time of 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds, which meant smashing the marathon world record, set by himself at 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds.
The shoes of the American brand used by Kipchoge were not accepted by the World Athletics and in this case, the new record achieved by the Kenyan athlete did not go beyond a media spectacle that, yes, brought athletics back to the first world focus, present in the media all over the planet. Many considered it like curling the curl, as one of the first times that evolution went under braking even for the most modern times.
Market vs World Athletics
Many believe that the origin of this debate, or at least the trigger, lies in the market more than in the athletes or in this desire to break records at all costs. It is the brands that invest enormous amounts of money in finding materials that are increasingly lighter, more resistant, more flexible and now, that can even boost the athlete, that adapt to the foot, the tread and the thousand factors that influence each race and in each type of test.
Keep producing, keep innovating and keep creating has led them to discover shoes that are even considered illegal, for now, to dispute official tests or to count times, as happened in the case of Kipchoge. It is the unstoppable rhythm of the market, which forces us to look for new sales and new products in every corner.
However, this is where the role of the World Athletics appears, who must ensure equality among all athletes and who must look out for the integrity of athletics. However, its increasingly permissive views and that have generated criticism such as those of Usain Bolt, who resigns himself to end up losing his records, mean that he is increasingly bent on brands by commercial and economic interests and that these advances increasingly have more room in elite sport. It will be necessary to see how quickly the WA ends up giving way and how some of those records are falling while a controversy that could divide the athletics is stoked.