Women's beach volleyball

Team Canada Gets Lululemon Bump

High-tech customization and climate testing of their athletic gear might give Canada's beach volleyball players the edge at Rio 2016.


The Olympics can be an exhilarating and intimidating event.  Every athlete is one of the best in their country, each trained and prepared for exactly this moment.  That’s where advances in equipment can mean the difference between silver and gold.  You might remember Speedo’s LZR swimsuit at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, where 23 out of the 25 world records were broken by swimmers wearing the suit.  Now the former head of Speedo’s Aqualab, Dr. Tom Waller, is taking on women’s beach volleyball at Lululemon’s research lab in Vancouver.

Sweaty science

When it comes to state of the art athletic gear, women’s beach volleyball may not be the first sport that comes to mind.  After all, there’s not that much area to work with.  But Canadian athletic gear producer Lululemon took on the challenge. And they did it with some pretty fancy equipment.

First up, a 3D scanner that captures each athlete’s body – its dimensions, the way it moves – for a suit that’s perfectly tailored.

Next, a climate simulation chamber that can mimic environments from 30-50 degrees Celsius, 20-100 percent humidity, up to 5,000 metres of altitude, and strong winds.  Rio is hot and humid, causing clothing to expand and sweat to build-up.  By testing the clothing in these conditions beforehand, they can be designed to withstand.

Fashion and function

The resulting suits are a perfect combination of fashion and function with a new support system for the chest and bottoms with minimal seams, but also Canada’s signature red colour and an inspirational message on the inside that reads, “Be in this moment, it’s yours.”

And the Canadians are seizing their moments.  Kristina Valjas and Jamie Lynn Broder are 1-1 in their matches so far while Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley are 2-0.

There’s no doubt that the full 6 month design process for these suits will lead to at least one unforgettable moment in Rio.

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Malgosia Pakulska is a freelance science writer, speaker, and blogger. She completed her PhD in Professor Molly Shoichet’s lab studying drug delivery systems for spinal cord regeneration after injury. She is still passionate about research and wants to share that excitement with the public. When she is not in the lab, she is experimenting in the kitchen and blogging about it at Smart Cookie Bakes.