Athletes are going faster, higher, and farther—thanks to technology and smarts

Science is helping to create new training methods and amazing performances by athletes such as swimmer Katie Ledecky. How much faster, stronger, and better can humans get?

The race for the ages can be run only in our imagination: Usain Bolt vs. Jesse Owens.

Bolt is in his 21st-century lane, a smooth, slip-resistant rubber surface spread out for 100 meters, designed to quickly return energy to his legs as he races across it.

Then there’s Owens in his pre-World War II lane, an uneven bed of cinders, a soft surface that actually steals energy from his legs as he runs.

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