NEW YORK (AP) — Team USA’s opening ceremony uniforms for the Beijing Olympics include sneaky new warming technology, as well as a convenient front pocket and cinched waist on anoraks in navy and blue. White.
The jackets unveiled Thursday by official equipment supplier Ralph Lauren feature an integrated honeycomb-shaped smart fabric layer that expands or contracts in response to temperature changes, all without the use of batteries or wired technology.
The help from a company called Skyscrape follows battery-powered cooling and heating technology the company has used for some previous looks for the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Bobsledder Aja Evans, a Sochi bronze medalist and alternate this time around, was thrilled with the new gear she modeled for the media at the Polo Ralph Lauren store in downtown Soho.
“It’s my favorite look,” said the three-time Olympian, who didn’t medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. “It feels great and can go inside and out.”
Female athletes will march Feb. 4 at the start of the Games in China wearing red boots and red fleece pants with mostly navy blue jackets. The men’s looks are predominantly white. Both will be wearing navy knit beanies, and both will have the bonus large pouch on the front of their jackets to go with roomy side pockets and graphic hits on the sleeves.
Ralph Lauren has opted for navy for its gloves, and all athletes will be provided with masks to guard against COVID-19. Team USA Paralympians will receive the same equipment. The uniforms were made in the United States. The team’s closing ceremony looks in a buffalo plaid pattern were unveiled in October.
Evans, who competes in two-man bobsled competitions, wasn’t particularly nervous about heading to China soon as the omicron variant still poses challenges. The host country has severely limited spectators and taken other precautions.
“We test every other day in the sport of bobsledding and when we get to Beijing we will test every day,” she said.
Evans, 33, said he will miss the camaraderie of life in the Olympic Village, trading Olympic pins, meeting other athletes from around the world and attending events in other sports.
“This life in the Olympic Village will be very different from my previous Olympic Games. I know, you know, with the COVID restrictions, there won’t be as much interaction and mixing or even going to other events. This is going to be a little disappointing and unfortunate. But the fact that the Olympics are happening is a blessing,” she said.
Evans, from South Chicago, grew up in athletics with Olympic hopefuls. At the request of a college coach, she switched to bobsledding after graduation. Although she lives in Atlanta, she often returns to Chicago to encourage other children like her to pursue their dreams.
Vonetta Flowers is another reason Evans turned to bobsledding. At the 2002 Winter Olympics, Flowers and pilot Jill Bakken won gold in the women’s two-man event. Flowers became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
“My journey in sports has shown me that my purpose is to help continue to inspire young women and children,” said Evans, who is one of many African-American athletes currently in the sport. “I come home and talk to the kids where I was sitting in the same seats in the Chicago public school system, and seeing someone like me who looks exactly like them win an Olympic medal in a winter Olympic sport shows you that it is possible.”
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