You’ve likely heard the horror stories about the polluted rowing courses in Rio, where athletes are expected to compete in water replete with raw sewage. Tests have shown that “Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses that in some tests measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach." Swallowing just three teaspoons of the water undoubtedly means a viral infection for the poor sap who ingests it (there’s a 99 percent chance of infection).
Enter the new rowing suit made by U.S. company Boathouse, whose founder and CEO, John Strotbeck, is a two-time Olympic rower himself. The one-piece "unisuit" has antimicrobial properties, but that's not even the most innovative thing about it. The feature the athletes are more likely to talk about is the lack of seams, which is an incredibly important detail when you consider the number of hours athletes spend making repetitive motions during training and competition.
The suits are made using an electronic knitting machine that is typically used to make delicate garments like hosiery. Because of the knitting process, and because each suit is made to custom measurements, there’s almost no fabric waste left over. And it's insanely lightweight: The entire suit weighs less than seven ounces.
And while the antimicrobial finish is a nice bonus, it’s probably not going to work any miracles—the suit still leaves most of the rowers’ bodies exposed, and the biocides aren’t great at killing viruses anyway. Still, every little bit helps.