Speedskating Science: Is Blue the Fastest Color?

The psychology of a suit may have as much influence on the athlete's performance as its physics, some experts say

The Norwegian speedskating team abandoned their traditional red suits for blue ones this Olympics after a report by Norwegian scientists that blue is the fastest color. 

While Norwegian speedskater Sindre Henriksen had his doubts about the claim, Norway's early results in Pyeongchang show evidence that there may be some truth to the theory. Norway's Sverre Lunde Pedersen won the bronze medal in the men's 5000m. The medal is only Norway's second in Olympic speedskating since 2006. 

Skaters from Germany, Norway and South Korea first skated in a similar shade of blue at a World Cup competition last month in November in Norway, according to The New York Times. At the 2014 Winter Olympics, South Korea wore a darker shade of blue, Norway wore red and Germany wore black. 

Havard Myklebust, the sports scientist leading Norway’s secret suit development effort, told the Times that Norwegian journalists might have played a role in helping spread the new color theory, but he wouldn't say whether he really believes the color of a suit could affect the aerodynamics of a material. 

“What I’ve said is, our new blue suit is faster than our old red suit,” he told The Times, “and I stand by that."

The psychology of a suit may have as much influence on the athlete's performance as its physics. 

“Sporting participants wearing some colors may feel more confident or powerful,” Stephen Westland, a professor of color science at the University of Leeds in England told The New York Times. “And opponents may infer qualities about their opponents that depend upon which colors they are wearing.” 

If the Norwegians continue to land on the podium we may see more speedskaters dressed in blue come 2022. 

Copyright NBC Olympics - Pyeongchang
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