Cutting Edge is Cutting Skill

Evelyn Streit, Columnist

Whether you currently participate in a sport or just like to watch it, you can understand how the love of the game can spark some divisive arguments. One such controversy relates to whether technology used in some sports is beneficial to the players or if it takes away from the game and its purpose.

We have recently finished up the Winter Olympics, but while watching them I began to realize that some of the competitors beat each other and broke records by very small margins (sometimes down to the hundreth of a second), especially in racing sports like speed skating. According to the Chicago Tribune, this means that we may be entering a time researchers are calling the “Peak Olympics.” Obviously, as an athlete continues to get better and better, it becomes harder and harder to improve. Take running, for example; if people always dropped time, they would eventually get to zero, which is unachievable. So, this got me thinking: how much better is it humanly possible to become?

According to The New York Times, as it turns out, some may be turning to technology in order to give them an edge over their opponents and push their boundaries. And yes, while this new equipment may be a way to boost an athlete’s performance, it will eventually become obsolete. Furthermore, doesn’t it start to give certain people an unfair advantage? When a select few are provided with tools that aid in things like their swing, or their stride, or their jumps, the technology starts to take away from the strength and skill needed for that particular activity and creates an unfair advantage over those who do not have the resources to purchase this new technology.

One example of this is the Polara golf ball, according to Golf Digest. This ball has a slight dimple pattern on it that allows it to travel farther and more accurately. It requires less work from the player, so this invention would be great for individuals who golf for fun, but in a top-level competition, it could raise some questions about cheating and scoring. Next, according to PyeongChang 2018, the clap skate (an untraditional type of skate that keeps the blade on the ice just a little longer than usual to maximize the amount of power from every stride) used in the 1998 Winter Games helped skaters so much that five new records were set. Clearly, this new equipment made a big difference in the competitor’s racing, but what about the people who didn’t have them? Imagine working for your entire life to reach the Olympics, then, when your time to shine comes, you are beat simply because others have more advanced technology. Again, it is unfair. In addition, technology not only plays a role in winter sports, but also in summer sports. Competitive swimming is one such sport. Swimming has few material requirements: a suit, a cap, and goggles. However, once this gear is changed and becomes more refined, it can make a big difference between who touches the wall first. Even just a thousandth of a second gap is enough to determine who gets the gold. According to U.S. Masters Swimming, a tech suit can help reduce drag and make the swimmer faster, but such suits can equate to $500 or more. Obviously, the higher quality suits are more expensive, so at this point it is fair to question if the competition becomes more about who has the most money rather than who has trained the most and who is really the best.  

While all this is true, there are some ways that technology has proven to be beneficial to the players and the game. For instance, according to Top End Sports, in soccer, the hawk-eye system (a system that uses computers and cameras to track the trajectory of an object) is becoming more common in order to determine if the ball has crossed over the line of the goal. So, in this case, technology has actually made the game more fair. Also, according to Technologist, a company called Gait Up created a sensor to track a person’s motion. This sensor records movement patterns, and allows users to identify a problem before it happens; it basically helps to lower an athletes risk of injury. When used for the right reasons, technology can be a great development to the game, but not if it interferes with the sport’s overall play. Technology in sports can improve the quality and legality of the game, but there need to be clear lines between benefiting all players or a select few.   

Although technology can be seen in many other aspects of the future, sports should not be one of them. Yes, technology should definitely be used to keep people safe and prevent injury, but not anything that results in certain individuals having an unfair advantage over others. Remember, even if it helps athletes now, there is still a limit to what a human being can accomplish.