The jaw-dropping 400m hurdles world record from Norway’s Karsten Warholm, as well as a plethora of European records and national records can be attributed to many factors, not least the ‘Olympic Games effect’ but also track in the Tokyo National Stadium has been raising many people's eyebrows.
Supplied and installed by Mondo, who have provided the surface of the main athletics stadium ever since the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, the track has been getting plaudits from the athletes themselves as well as statisticians.
“Every time there is an Olympic Games, we try to improve the formulation of the material and Tokyo has been no different,” commented Andrea Vallauri, the European Athletics Partner’s top track designer who is in Tokyo to see for himself how his company's track is performing.
“The track is very thin, just 14 millimetres, but we have added a new element: these rubber granules. In the lower layer of the track is this hexagonal design that creates these small pockets of air.
“They (the pockets of air) not only provide shock absorption but give some energy return, a sort-of trampoline effect. We have improved this combination, and this is why we are seeing that the track has improved performances."
“In Rio, the track we had then was called the Mondotrack WS. This new one is called the Mondotrack WSTY, for Tokyo. It’s the latest evolution of the track,” added Vallauri.
“It is completely within the (World Athletics) rules, but it is also what we were asked to provide, with two important components: to protect the health of the athletes, to avoid trauma, but it should also give them a push.
“In lab testing we can see the improvement. It is difficult to say exactly but maybe it gives a 1-2% advantage (over the previous Mondotrack WS product installed in Rio).
“It is all prefabricated, so every lane is the same, and the run-ups for the long and triple jumps also.”
Among the other superlatives achieved by European athletes in Tokyo, there have been European records for Italy’s 100m winner Lamont Marcell Jacobs, who clocked 9.84 in his semi-final followed by 9.80 to win gold, Poland’s gold medal-winning mixed 4x400m quartet ran European records of 3:10.44 and 3:09.87 in their heat and then final, and also the Netherlands’ phenomenal 21-year-old Femke Bol who reduced the European record to 52.03 in her specialist event when taking the 400m hurdles bronze medal.
“I love the track and these conditions,” commented Bol, echoing the thoughts of many of the athletes in Tokyo, especially if they had made it to the medal podium or set a personal best.
No less than 1875 rolls of the track – utilising 420 tonnes of rubber with each roll weighing around 220kg – was made during a brief and frantic two-month period in May and June 2019 in the Mondo factory in the Italian town of Alba.
The rolls were then shipped to Tokyo by sea container, arriving in July 2019 just prior to work starting on the installation.
The track was then installed in the National Stadium by a specialised team of 12; and the rolls were unravelled to provide a surface area of 19,900 m2 for the main stadium and 15,800 m2 for the warm-up track and the transition area.
On his ultra-modern surface, which has incorporated all the latest scientific research in track technology, a collective target for the European athletes in Tokyo was to improve on the 11 gold medals that the continent won in Rio with, coincidently, another 11 European victories at the 2019 World Athletics Championships.
However, with 33 of the 48 events now concluded and three days still to go in the athletics programme, European athletes have already mined 14 golds – a tally spread across nine nations with another six Member Federations also in the medals – showing that Europe’s top athletes are enjoying the Mondo experience at these Olympic Games.