With a desire to have more competitive and technically-advanced sleds to compete head-to-head with the international elite, USA Luge partnered with Dow, Worldwide Olympic Partner and “The Official Chemistry Company” of the Olympic Games, to re-engineer the team’s sleds leading up to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Leveraging its industry-leading capabilities in Materials Science and Research & Development, Dow developed a brand-new, made in America sled at its Michigan Operations’ Core R&D division, in Midland.
Having Dow as a technical partner since 2007, USA Luge had previous collaborations with the Company on spot projects. But the game-changing program to upgrade the team’s equipment for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games began in February 2012, with specific emphasis on updating the kuffens – or runners – of the sleds. As the work between Duncan Kennedy, head of technical development for USA Luge, and Dow’s world-class scientists began to evolve, the partners quickly realized that much more could be done to update the sleds.
Focusing on material selection – over 20 different materials had been tested -, design, manufacturing and extensive testing in laboratory and on the track with athletes, Dow has developed a faster, replicable, more consistent and reliable sled for USA Luge, delivering innovations that help maximize athlete performance.
“In a sport timed to the 1/1000th of a second, every detail counts. Our team needed the precision, consistency and repeatability provided through applied research and modern manufacturing processes - components added by Dow and its team of world-class scientists. Through our partnership with Dow, we are much closer to a more consistent, perfectly tuned and faster sled,” said Kennedy, a three-time Olympian.
To re-engineer the sleds, Dow’s Materials Science team leveraged technologies and composites applied to customers in strategic markets like Automotive, Infrastructure, Transportation, Building & Construction. The solutions tailored for USA Luge have shown improved performance versus the materials previously used for the sleds - mainly steel and wood.
The results started to show quickly: two USA Luge athletes competing with sleds enhanced by Dow technologies improved their times toward the end of the 2012-2013 season. Now the team will have the opportunity to compete with new, American-developed sleds during the upcoming season, which will peak with the Olympic Games in February.
“Dow is applying world-class chemistry and engineering that help make the Games more sustainable and higher-performing. This is a great example of how Dow delivers innovations that improve day-to-day lives”, said George Hamilton, vice president of Dow Olympic Operations. “Our diversified portfolio and the customer-focused work of our scientists enable Dow to address the toughest challenges with unique, tailor-made solutions for the most specific needs.”
Now that the technical design has been developed and tested, USA Luge and Dow are letting America decide which paint pattern for the sleds and race suit the athletes will use at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Dow has developed four different design patterns, while Valiant Entertainment, leading comic book publisher and USA Luge sponsor, has created race suits and helmets to complement each. From now through August 23, fans can go to www.usaluge.org to vote for which combination – Silver Wave, Stargate, Flagship or Racer – they want USA Luge to use as they represent America on the world stage in February 2014.