Grahn and Heller think the technology might work best in a shoe, but at this stage in their research they warn against undue optimism from those with visions of three-minute miles dancing in their heads. "Do I think this could significantly raise the ceiling of athletic potential?" Grahn says. "Yes. Will it happen tomorrow? Of course not. But the Holy Grail—that's what everyone's always looking for, isn't it?"
NFL Europe's Club Med
While NFLers certainly have a pretty good gig, the best pro football team to play for may be the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe. During their 10-week season, which runs from April to June, Dragons players live in the sun-splashed resort town of Sitges, a half hour drive south of Barcelona. The Subur, the players' four-star hotel, sits on a nude beach frequented by Barcelona's beautiful people. In the Spanish tradition of the siesta the Dragons are normally finished with practice and tape-review by 1 p.m., about three hours earlier than other teams in the league. So a stroll down the beach on any non-game-day afternoon will reveal about half the players either sizzling in the sun or lolling in the Mediterranean on paddle boats. (The other half most likely are on a golf course.)
As sweet as the daylight life is in Sitges, the nightlife is even tastier. "The clubs here are amazing," says safety Brad Trout, who was allocated to Barcelona by the Broncos this season. "They'll go to four or five in the morning almost every night. The only problem is that some of the clubs are so close to the hotel that guys have to wear headphones when they sleep because it's so loud. But no one's complaining."
The word on Barcelona is spreading. This year several NFL players reportedly agreed to go to Europe on the condition that they be allocated to Barcelona. The Dragons draw only about 8,000 fans to home games at Olympic Stadium, and the salaries for players are about $1,000 a week, but that doesn't matter too much when you're playing in football's Eden. "A lot of guys in this league get homesick pretty fast," says Trout, "but not here. Most of us could stay in Sitges the rest of our lives."
Trouble de Bruijn?
Three weeks after Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn, 26, began an astonishing spree of record-breaking in which she has tied or surpassed seven world marks, the waters of world swimming are churning with debate over whether she could have swum so fast without the aid of drugs. Inky, as she's known to an adoring Dutch public, equaled and then twice lowered the 50-meter freestyle record, shaving .12 of a second off the mark of 24.51 set in 1994 by China's Le Jingyi. She also cracked Le's 54.01 for the 100 freestyle—a time de Bruijn herself called "impossible to beat" just before she swam the event in 53.80. On May 26 she flew through the 50 butterfly in 25.64, more than a half second faster than any other woman had.
Her most stunning feat, however, was to stop the clock at 56.69 seconds in the 100 fly on May 27 When Jenny Thompson set the record of 57.88 at the Pan Pacific Championships last year, she broke Mary T. Meagher's 18-year-old mark by a mere .05 of a second. De Bruijn lopped a whopping 1.19 seconds off Thompson's time. Bob Beamon, step aside. "When I finished the race and looked at the scoreboard, I thought it said 57.69," says de Bruijn. "Then I looked again and saw it was 56.69. I thought, My god, I don't know how I did that."
Neither does a large contingent of coaches and swimmers. They see in de Bruijn similarities to Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin, who had three highly questioned gold-medal-winning performances at the 1996 Olympics, later tested positive for andro and was banned for allegedly tampering with a urine sample. Says 1996 U.S. swim team co-captain Jon Olsen, "I've known Inky for a long time. She has a beautiful stroke and a strong body, but a 56? There's no way." Adds Scott Volkers, a prominent Australian coach, "I can't imagine how you can get a girl to swim that fast."
The other '96 U.S. co-captain, Josh Davis, however, points out important differences between Smith de Bruin and de Bruijn: "Inky has great starts and turns and a beautiful stroke; she was already a world-class swimmer [No. 1-ranked in the 50 free the last two years, with two European titles in 1999]; and she's training under Paul Bergen, one of the top coaches in the sport. There's no reason to believe her times are tainted."