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Going For Gold: The Brains Behind Team GB

(c) Sky News 2012

British science and engineering have given Team GB the best possible chance of gold in the Olympic Games.

New lightweight materials, hi-tech design and sophisticated training technology have given the athletes a significant performance boost, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Track cyclists will be using superbikes made from a single piece of carbon fibre that has been shaped with the help of wind tunnels to be more aerodynamic than ever.

Sailing harnesses and mountain bikes will have a nano-coating made by Oxford-based P2i that sheds water, preventing any weight gain that could reduce speed.

Swimmers will wear Speedo suits, caps and goggles that have been designed using a 3D avatar to optimise hydrodynamic performance.

And the F1 giant McLaren has developed a tracking system that monitors the performance of the wheelchair basketball team, improving training.

Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at the institution, told Sky News: "Engineering (Milan: ENG.MI - news) is critical to the success of Team GB.

"It's the athletes that win medals but they want to do anything they can do to improve their performance to get 100% of their energy into the equipment they use."

Some sports have benefited more from technology. Over the last century, the one-hour cycling record has improved by 221%, all of it due to better bicycle aerodynamics, according to the institute.

But over the same period the 100-metre sprint record has improved by just 24%, with just 4% of it due to technological changes in clothing design.

However, technology is now coming to the track.

Scientists at Loughborough University's Sports Technology Institute have redesigned athletics spikes.

Research student and hurdler Andrea Vinet said track performance significantly improves by making the shoes stiffer and harder to bend.

"We are looking at improvements in the order of 1%," she said.

"That could be the difference between being first and fourth or sixth."

In future, athletes could wear spray-on clothing to minimise drag, and use 3D printers to make shoes immediately before a race that compensate for the weather and any injuries they have.

Engineers are also working on "phase-change" cycle tyres that use nanotechnology to alter their shape and even tread pattern in response to track conditions.

But leaps in technology are also challenging sports' authorities.

In 2008 the Federation Internationale de Natation (Fina) approved Speedo's LZR Racer swimsuit for the Beijing Games.

But 94% of medals were won by swimmers wearing the suit and Fina later banned the suit from competitions amid accusations of "technological doping".

The institution says the authorities need to work with engineers so they are not caught out in future.

But Ms Oldham said technology does not guarantee that an athlete will win.

She (SNP: ^SHEY - news) said: "If you look at teams like Jamaica, they did not get much funding yet they still produced Usain Bolt.

"If you are an elite athlete you will always be an elite athlete, whatever funding you have."