Team GB fired up by Hong Kong 'smart pants' at London Games
A secret weapon used by the triumphant British Olympics track-cycling team has been revealed - "smart pants" that were created by Hong Kong engineers.
The specialists at Kowloon firm Fibretronic spent a year working on the battery-powered tracksuit pants, which kept the cyclists' leg muscles at an optimum temperature before each race. With the explosive amount of energy required in track racing, the pants ensured none of it was wasted in the warm-up.
The engineers were thrilled when they saw the British athletes wearing the tracksuits during the London Games, and even more delighted when the team snapped up seven out of 10 track-cycling gold medals.
Fibretronic director Jeff Faiola said his engineers had come up with a textile that could be powered up with heat yet remained light and comfortable. They also had to make sure that the warmth was directed to the right muscles and there was no risk of overheating.
A kindle-size battery is wired into the back of the pants, which can heat up to 70 degrees Celsius.
Faiola, whose company specialises in wearable electronics, said the smart tracksuit they created can generate four-times more heat than its previous heatwear technology, is lighter and allows for better ventilation.
Fibretronic general manager Isaac Man Wing-lok said: "The most challenging part was to … make sure they would not overheat and burn the athletes."
The company was approached by sportswear giant Adidas as part of a project with Britain's Loughborough University to create a tracksuit for the British cycling team.
Man said: "We were feeling very nervous during the invention process - we did not know whether our invention would be used until we were notified of the good news at the last minute."
Faiola believes the heatwear will play a big part in the company's future.
"We believe the thermal technology can be expanded to other uses, and I am sure that is going to be a major prospect for our company to pursue in the coming years," he said.