With the next Olympic Games in less than three years’ time, European Athletics’ Partner Mondo is already thinking about what it can do to improve on its much-vaunted Mondotrack WS TY product that drew plaudits from athletes and fans around the world during this summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
In an exclusive interview with European Athletics, Mondo’s International Manager Andrea Vallauri – the man responsible for overseeing the track that was installed in the Japanese capital’s National Stadium – talks about what could come next ahead of Paris 2024.
European Athletics: Firstly, let’s look back at Tokyo. Did the track do what you expected it to after being installed in the National Stadium?
Andrea Vallauri: Yes, because we had done a long period of research which stated immediately after Rio in 2016. In Rio, we discovered things that we could do to improve the track material and during the subsequent development we discovered what we could do to improve the balance further between absorbing the shock from the athletes and returning the energy to them.
But initially, everything was just theory and then, thanks to the cooperation between World Athletics and the footwear company Asics, we are able to test our theories in their research and development centre with four different materials.
It was blind testing by their athletes, all they knew is that it was material A, B, C or D but in the end the product that was liked the best by the athletes was also the product we thought was going to be the best as well.
This gave us confidence that we were going in the right direction for Tokyo. We went ahead and manufactured this material and installed the track in Tokyo (in 2019). We, of course, hoped and expected the track would provide improved performance but in truth, until the last minute, you really don’t know but all the evidence beforehand was very positive.
I got a message asking why so many track records are being broken and athletes are running so fast. Well, the "trampoline Track" is one of the reasons. Andrea Vallauri, international manager for Mondo, the Olympic track supplier and the man behind it. #Tokyo2021 pic.twitter.com/BP3QQpg4MS— Fentuo Tahiru Fentuo (@Fentuo_) August 3, 2021
EA: In Tokyo, you told journalists that the track was aiding athletes by 1-2%. Do you still feel that was a correct assessment?
AV: We are still assessing the data but it’s going to be difficult to be specific about how much the track was aiding athletes over what went before. It could be 1%, 1.5%, 2% so much depends on the athlete, their condition and other factors. What I can say is that we were very pleased that there was such positive feedback, firstly and most importantly from the athletes and their coaches. When athletes say to you, “We can fly on this track,” we couldn’t wish for anything more.
EA: The National Stadium in Tokyo is currently the only venue in the world with a Mondotrack WS TY track. What happens next with this track and your products in general?
AV: The Mondotrack WS TY was developed especially for Tokyo, this is why it’s called the TY. Now, of course, it is our idea to sell this product and to promote it as the top product of our range.
Now we have to analyse the performance data as well as take into account other feedback and comments. After that we can start looking ahead to Paris. One thing we are very looking at very closely for the future will be the green aspect of the next track we produce.
Paris 2024 is going to be green. It is already saying it is an environmental leader, this is their philosophy, that everything should be sustainable. We will try to add some more performance to our product, we believe there is still some space to improve, but we are also working to make our product more sustainable, and we have several ideas about this.
One thing we have also discovered is that it may be possible to have different surfaces for different events, so the main track can be one material but then we can change it slightly so that the pole vault or the javelin can be another one. I am just giving you an example and all the materials will be very similar but there can be specific designs for each event, especially with the field events, because clearly an athlete running on the main track is looking for different things from the surface than someone competing in the high jump or javelin.
We still don’t know whether it’s feasible but it’s an area we are thinking about, we want to explore and we are going in that difrection, at least in terms of research and development.
At the moment, the rules are that the material must be the same in all areas (of a track) but the stresses on the track from the various events are different.