Top ten products that have changed sport forever (in no particular order)
1. Hawkeye 2001
Developed from a spin off from military research Hawkeye has enhanced the enjoyment of cricket, tennis and snooker and enabled viewers and commentators to gain insight into the technical aspects of the game. Used by the umpires at Wimbledon for the first time in 2007 Hawkeye has gained recognition from many authorities as a way of officiating.
2. Oversized tennis racquet 1976
In 1976 Howard Head struggles with off centre hits and lack of control, motivating him to invent the first patented Prince oversized racquet, the Prince Classic. At 110 square inches, its revolutionary design changed the game and became the most successful racquet of its time. Fundamentally changes the appearance of tennis and makes the game more accessible for beginners.
3. Predator football boot 1994
A determination for a genuine improvement in playability from football boots encouraged Craig Johnston to create prototypes from existing boots with various ribbed and textured materials glued to them. Finally selling the idea to Adidas the result was Predator. Combined with blade type studs instead of the usual round form the boot provides a visible and performance differential from existing designs.
4. Carving Skis 1998
Although there is plenty of dispute the successful commercial exploitation of the carving skis originated from two Slovenian scientists, Jurij Franko and Pavel Skofic. Carving skis (sometimes called parabolic skis, which were originally used for beginners) are between 10 to 25 centimetres shorter than traditional skis. This makes them lighter and more manoeuvrable, but the key innovations are the dramatic sidecuts in the middle or "waist" of the skis and the wider tips and tails. The deeper the sidecut, the sharper and easier the turning becomes.
When pressure is applied via the boot to the middle of a ski through a turn, the ski forms an arc - the carving ski works on the principle that its hourglass figure accentuates the arc, making the turn tighter and faster. Old-style skis typically had a turning radius of around 40 metres; the carving ski halves this figure. First made by Elan of Slovinia then K2.
5. Big Bertha driver 1991
Golf company Callaway introduced the Big Bertha into its range in a search for performance. The head size was larger than existing drivers and its contruction was from aluminium rather than the more usual persimmon wood. In recent years Calloway has grown the head size near to the largest permitted (460cm3).
The performance of the driver has enabled players to hit longer and more accurately with the same effort, effectively reducing the length and difficulty of golf courses around the world.
6. Air Jordan basketball shoes 1984
Nike took a chance with a relatively unknown basketball player by developing a range of shoes specifically based around his ability around a court. Through a combination of notoriety (the shoes were black and red – and constantly banned by the American NBA) and performance the brand began to gain market share. When Michael Jordan won the Slam Dunk competition in 1986-87 Nike incorporated the flying man logo and the rest is history.
Jordan became more involved in the design collaboration process and in 1997 Nike launched the Air Jordan marque as a stand alone brand.
7. Astroturf 1964
AstroTurf was invented in 1964 by employees of Monsanto and originally sold under the name "Chemgrass". It was renamed AstroTurf after its first well-publicized use at the Houston Astrodome stadium. The ability to play, practise and perform on the artificial surface without the expense of constant maintenance has transformed many sports – notably field hockey, five a side football and club tennis.
8. Performance enhancing drugs – Nandrolone 1983
Passed for mediacal use by the American FDA, the effects of the drug include muscle growth, appetite stimulation, increased red blood cell production and bone density. Banned for competitive athletic use Nadrolone was repeatedly detected in athletes in many sports catagories, leading to speculation that use was widespread. A more rigorous testing procedure is now in place but doubts remain about the numbers of performance enhancing drugs in sport.
9. Carbon fibre resin process 1980’s
The use of carbon fibre filaments, woven into sheets and resin bonded under pressure and heat has transformed the performance of many sports products, from the high technology of Formula One through yachting to tennis and a myriad of other sports. Carbon composite parts can be built so they exhibit high strength in the direction of load, so they can be designed to be as light as possible for the application. Combined with sophisticated CAD/CAM technology and analysis parts are routinely many times lighter than their predecessors whilst being stronger and more resilient.
10. Snowboards 1965
Sherman Poppen is most often credited with inventing the snowboard in 1965. Poppen fixed two skis together for his daughter to "surf" down the snowy hill outside their Michigan home. Combining the words "snow" and "surf", the new invention became the Snurfer, and went into production the following year.
Over the next decade, early pioneers like Jake Burton, Demetrije Milovich and Tom Sims created more specialized and refined board designs. By the early 80's a handful of snowboard brands were on the market, including Burton, Winterstick, Sims, Barfoot, Avalanche and Gnu.
11. Lycra 1959
YCRA fibre was invented in 1959 by a team of scientists, originally as a replacement for rubber in corsetry. Before lycra fibre was invented, consumers endured saggy, baggy, stretched and bunched clothes. But when the DuPont scientist Joe Shiver perfected a revolutionary new fibre – code named K, that all changed. In the 1960s, lycra fibre revolutionised the way in which fabrics could be used. In beachwear it replaced thick and heavy swimsuits with light, quick-drying garments like the bikini. In 1968, the medal-winning French Olympic ski team became the first high-profile sports personalities to wear ski suits with lycra – a trend that soon spread to other sports. By 1972 Olympic swimmers swore by the sleek, lightweight suits with lycra.