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Composites in Olympic & Paralympic Sports

JEC has decided to celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2024 in France, with this brochure highlighting the close ties between composites and sports, and the increasing use of composites over the past years in 18 out of the many Summer Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Readers will discover the evolution of the composites’ applications in 18 Summer Olympic disciplines up to present time through a variety of content, including the history, the early stage and the recent developments of the use of composites per sport, and how it was integrated to paralympic disciplines when accurate.

To prepare this brochure, JEC commissioned Ignaas Verpoest, Emeritus Professor, Composite Materials Group, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), Véronique Michaud, Associate Professor, Head of Laboratory for Processing of Advanced Composites at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland), and Helena Teixidó, PhD in Composites from EPFL, to document the history and its key milestones and achievements.

 

   

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On the road to olympics and paralympics games - Archery   On the road to olympics and paralympics games - Rowing

On the road to olympics and paralympics games - Athletics   On the road to olympics and paralympics games - Badminton

Surf   Climbing

Fencing   Hockey

Golf   Sailing

Shooting   Tennis

Cycling   Equestrian

Archery: composites hit the bull's eye

How composites help to reach the podium

Archery is based on the principle of energy transfer in physics. When the bow is pulled, the energy stored in the limbs is transferred to the arrow at the instant it is released, shooting it forward at a rate of over 200 kmh. Bows are one of the oldest applications for composite materials.  Steppe nomads used a composite bow made from horn, wood, animal ligaments, and resin.  The composite bows used by archers on horseback were smaller and boasted superior performance compared to previous versions. It was integral component in the success of numerous ‘waves’ of invasions. 

In modern archery, composite materials are crucial components of both bow and arrow. They are used to produce limbs, risers and arrows.

- In limbs, composites significantly reduce the overall weight and making the part more supple which transfers energy to the arrow more easily.

  • Likewise, risers, can be made from carbon, contributing to sturdiness and a lighter overall weight. The riser is the central component connecting the two limbs. It supports the arrow when the bow is pulled back and absorbs vibration.
  •  When used in arrows, glass or carbon fibre composites combine flexibility and light weight. This offers archers arrows with smaller diameters with minimal windage.   Arrow shafts made from carbon-coated aluminium core composites offer the best flight characteristics. While very popular with competitive archers, they are also the costliest.

Some applications that bring medals (la partie appli)

Balance, accuracy and light weight

X Composites specialises in manufacturing Olympic-grade bows from composite materials. Since 2008, the company converts carbon and glass fibre using a patented process that is unique in the world of archery. Its products are sold under the brand name Uukha.
The Uukha Xpro2 25" is one of the most well-balanced, strongest, stiffest and lightest risers on the market today. It weighs a mere 1,125 grams, thanks to bolts and bushings made from 7075 anodised high-strength aluminium alloy. Archers who prefer a lighter riser will appreciate the additional comfort it offers, and be equipped to shoot more arrows before feeling fatigued. Those looking for weight-induced stability may add weights to the ends or a stabilizer according to their preference. The Xpro2 25” riser is stiff enough to support additional weight without deforming during arrow release, and is the best alternative to heavy risers. This is because its mass is distributed uniformly to maximize the moment of inertia and therefore limit vibrations when taking aim.

Sturdiness and reliability

Arrow manufacturer Easton has a special connection with the Olympics. In 1992, for the Opening Ceremony of the 25th Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spanish Paralympic athlete Antonio Rebollo shot a flaming arrow that officially lit the Olympic torch. That arrow was an Easton arrow.

The American company specialises in hunting accessories, specifically carbon arrows and composite carbon-aluminium arrows. They produce models suitable for all modern archery disciplines. The brand enjoys an outstanding reputation in North America, which is a key market. In the United States alone, the number of bow hunters is estimated to be 2.5 million. Archers looking for the perfect shot seek out carbon composite arrows for their sturdiness and flight quality.

Introduction to the discipline

Historically used in hunting or in battle, bows have been found to date back 20,000 years ago. These extremely efficient tools have been used by the vast majority of human societies across the world. This very widespread use led to the object itself taking many different variations. The English longbow, one of the most well-known, was a mainstay of the island’s military power during the feudalism. Other types include the compound bow suitable for hunting, the more modern pulley bow, and the quintessential Olympic bow. Known as a recurve bow, the latter is the only one authorized for use in the Games. It is a curved bow used with several accessories, including front and side stabilisers, sight, and clicker.

From its utilitarian function in the 16th century, archery has evolved to become mainly a sport. The pursuit of performance for competition accelerated modernisation of the object itself, whose design changed considerably. In a sport where concentration and accuracy take precedence and determine the quality of the shot, bow materials slowly transformed. While wood was the primary material, today, it can be made from steel, glass fibre, and carbon.

Number of permit-holders worldwide

Archery is currently the fourth most commonly practiced individual sport in the world. The World Archery Foundation (WAF) is the only international organisation recognised by the International Olympic Committee. It represents five continental associations and 168 national associations that govern, promote and develop the sport in their respective regions.

Great disparity exists between the number of permit-holders within the WAF, officially recognised by the IOC and the number of total archers who are members of other organisations.

Besides the WAF, the three biggest countries for archery are the United States with 2.5 million players, France with over 250,000, and South Korea. In the Land of the Morning Calm, archery is a springboard for professional athletes, just like American football can be for the US. South Korea boasts a very structured system that is practically one of its kind in the world. Young talents are identified in secondary school, when they have the opportunity to join an extremely attractive training programme that offers compensation. This organisation has paid off, as the country leads the world ranking in the sport.

Skateboarding

Après avoir fait ses grands débuts sur la scène olympique aux Jeux Olympiques de la Jeunesse de Nanjing en 2014, le skateboard passe la vitesse supérieure et débarque aux Jeux Olympiques à Tokyo, en 2021, en tant que « nouveau sport ». Le skateboard fait aussi partie des quatre sports additionnels de Paris 2024, et enflammera a n’en pas douter la place de la Concorde, transformée en arène sportive pour l’occasion.

Nyjah Houston

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