American Ashton Eaton won the decathlon world championship in Beijing this weekend in dominating fashion. The 27-year-old, who earned an Olympic gold medal at London’s 2012 games, broke his previous world record with 9,045 points.
While Eaton, who hails from Portland, Ore., bested the field, it was his unique headgear in between each of the 10 events that also captured the public’s fascination.
Eaton, a Nike-sponsored athlete, wore the company’s new cooling hood. The covering was designed to reduce Eaton’s body heat, particularly around his head and face, and speed up recovery time for the next event.
Eaton had worked with the Nike Sports Research Lab for months before the competition, held inside Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, the venue for the 2008 Olympics. He had initially suggested to the company something similar to an ice hat.
“A perfect scenario would be to feel like you’ve just started on every event. The more you do, the more attrition you experience. Rather than realizing immediate physiological gain, the challenge is more about reducing the mental attrition from the two days to maximize each event,” said Eaton. “After asking questions about current recovery techniques, the conversation prompted me to ask myself: ‘Why does it feel good, after running, to pour a bottle of water over your head?’ I don’t know the physiological answer, but the fact that it does feel better makes me perform better.”
Nike soon got to work — with materials and data.
The company said it used data during testing to study fabric weights and “the optimal length of use for each hood. The data derived examines both the physiological and psychological benefits of the design. And Eaton’s trial of the prototype will advance research around the physiological advantages of head cooling.”
The hood’s inner layer holds in cool water, with a concentration around the eyes.