Today, sports and tech go hand in hand. The best athletes in the world — whether they’re soccer players, triathletes, cyclists, or even if they take part in the ever-broadening world of “action sports” — use tech to track progress, improve training, listen to music, record their heroics (and failures) and then recover when the day is said and done. In many ways, tech is the reason records — and perceived limitations — are broken year after year.
That said, these athletes didn’t grow up wishing for fitness trackers. We asked several athletes about the nostalgic gadgets they grew up with, as well as the tech that they use now.
3-time Ironman World Champion and 2-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion
“Growing up, I didn’t have access to much of the latest tech, but I did get a Sony Walkman for Christmas one year. I loved it. I would always get those cheesy ’80s compilation tapes, or ‘Best of the ’80s,’ and listen to them over and over again.
“Tech is pivotal in my sport of triathlon – a sport grounded in attention to detail. By using technology during training, I’m able to maximize my preparation ahead of competition.
“Recently, I have been relying on the Oakley Radar Pace, a soon to be released smart eyewear featuring a real-time voice activated coaching system. It’s changed the way that I train, and I’m excited for athletes of all levels to try out Radar Pace this year.”
“I didn’t have a lot of tech growing up. I could watch a half hour of cartoons on Sunday, and I finally got a Gameboy when I was 12. I spent all of my time playing out in the cul-de-sac and tearing around on anything with wheels. The most important device of any kind that shaped me was my Radio Flyer wagon.
The beauty of the wagon was that it could become anything. One day it would be a stagecoach getting robbed, and the next day it was a lunar rover. It taught me to be creative day in and day out, all the while developing my storytelling ability. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that my dad let me borrow his camcorder for a class project and I shot my first video. At that point, the imagination and the stories were there, and the tech gave me an infinitely creative medium that could keep up!”
Professional Mountain Bike Athlete
“When I was young, my favorite piece of tech was my Playstation. Especially games like Crash Bandicoot and Dave Mirra BMX. I was always pretty active growing up, riding bicycles and motocross bikes, but I spent hours and hours playing those games and trying to do as many tricks as possible in the BMX game. Growing up and becoming a professional mountain-bike rider, I have since met, or know people who know, the guys who were in that game. Quite the surreal experience.
“Tech now plays a huge role in my life. As a professional mountain bike rider, I use all forms of tech to get the most out of my physical performance and my mountain bike’s performance. I use heart-rate monitors to track and measure my physical training and performance, and GPS units to log the miles and locations I ride and race around the world. On my iPhone I use brain-training apps such as Lumosity and Brain Trainer to train my reaction time and memory. I also use GoPros at every event to learn new downhill tracks and study lines, then watch those on my computer or phone over the course of the race week. When you break down all that goes into being a professional athlete, there is a lot of tech used which ranges from performance to social media.”
Professional Snowmobiler and Red Bull Athlete
“I’d have to say my favorite would be Nintendo. I used to love Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out as a kid. To this day, I can’t remember my wife’s birthday… but I can remember 0073735963: that’s the code to go directly to Mike Tyson and fight him. So awesome. Google it, I’m not the only one who has this code burned into their brain.
“Tech plays a huge role. From the date acquisition on our snowmobiles, to our heart-rate monitors we use during training, GPS lap-timers like the LitPro — you use these devices constantly to learn, to grow, and to push yourself.”
2016 CrossFit Games Champion
VCRs and Nintendo 64. I used to go on long road trips with my family, and to pass the time we watched movies on VHS or played Mario Kart on N64. The TV was in our truck, and it was before TVs were a thing in vehicles, so it was a legit full tube television in the back. It’s hilarious to see how far we have come in video and film.
“I‘m not really into wearable monitoring for heart rate, etc., but I’m really into music, so I play Spotify on wireless speakers while I train. Though, probably the most important tech I use is Compex electric muscle stimulation. It’s an integral part of my training, as I use it to warm up and recover after long days in the gym or on off days.”
Professional Climber, National Geographic Photographer, The North Face Athlete
I never left home without my Sony Walkman. I would listen to it to get psyched up before swim meets and karate competitions. I listened to a lot of Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Guns and Roses and AC/DC in middle school.
As a photographer and filmmaker, tech plays a significant role in allowing me to do what I do, from smaller and lighter camera systems that shoot 4k to having apps that are able to tell me where I can expect the sun (and light) will be coming from at any given time of day for a shoot.
Slackliner, Red Bull Athlete
One piece of tech I grew up with was the desktop computer my sister and I were allowed to share. I grew up rock climbing, so my sister and I would crowd around the computer and watch YouTube videos of Chris Sharma, Dean Potter, as well as many other great climbers at the time.
As I transitioned into slacklining instead of rock climbing, my favorite piece of tech became earbuds. Music plays a huge role in my athletic career, and earbuds have given me the ability to play music and many situations. Being able to play music is a huge advantage, whether it is to mange nerves before a big competition, boredom during long travel days, or even frustration from a particularly hard trick.
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