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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
Jones' techno dreams
The
The "glass shoe" developed for Marion Jones
Marion Jones - you shall go to the ball.

The American sprinter is aiming to land a record-breaking five Olympic golds in one Games.

And if she achieves her dream - well, she already has the glass slippers to complement her fairytale.

Scientists have made clear running shoes with no heels just for her - the lightest ever, weighing in at 3.5oz.

They are not strictly made of glass but an extremely expensive clear plastic called thermoplastic urethane.

It has taken scientists, Tobie Hatfield and Kevin Hoffer, three years to perfect the clear spikes.

Top experts

Hatfield said: "Marion asked if we could make them clear. We looked at each other and said 'Ok, we're in advanced design'. We like challenges, and that was certainly a challenge. so we decided to go for it."

Thorpe wearing his shark skin swim suit
Thorpe wearing his shark skin swim suit
Jones has still to decide whether she will wear the glass slippers.

But elsewhere, Olympians have been ready to wear the most technologically advanced gear.

Many swimmers, including triple gold medallist Australian Ian Thorpe have been donning revolutionary shark skin suits.

Perhaps more than in any other Olympics, obscure backroom scientists have made their mark in Sydney.

All the top sports firms, including Speedo, Nike and Adidas, employ biomechanists and hydrodynamics experts.

Optimum performance

Take the marathon runners whose Nike singlets are made entirely from recycled plastic drinks bottles.

Many sprinters now wear Z-shaped shoe spikes made by Adidas. These no longer puncture the track, which in turn cuts down on friction and therefore effort.

Jones may not be just wearing her glass slippers.

Together with Australian track superstar Cathy Freeman, she may go to the starting blocks sheathed from head to foot in Nike "speed suits" designed to maintain optimum body warmth and gently squeeze the muscles.

But, if performance really is boosted, how much of that improvement can be attributed to the revolutionary designs and how much to the psychological boost the athletes must get from knowing science is pushing them all the way to the finishing line?

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16 Sep 00 |  Athletics-Track
Jones determined to realise dream
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