The road to the Paris Olympic Games: well-shod and privately | Paris 2024 Olympic Games

These are times when disruptive is cool and, in athletics, On is its brand.

Nike and Adidas embark on an arms race, lighter shoes, more and better foam, platforms four centimeters thick, more bounce, a carbon plate in the midsole that acts as a spring and makes the ground, asphalt or tartan , return much of the energy that is delivered with each step. Race with impossible records in all the long-distance events and in the queen of them all, the marathon – the men’s marathon, for the North American brand, Kelvin Kiptum (2h 35s), the Kenyan who died so young so recently; the women’s race (2h 11m 53s), for the three cushions by the Ethiopian Tigst Assefa –, in a fierce neck-to-neck that has transformed the way of running and devalued the value of the brands. And in which suddenly, out of nowhere, a Swiss brand founded by a triathlete who had a Eureka moment in 2010 when he stepped barefoot on a hose intervened. Just as the founder of Asics says that watching his daughter use a sponge in the bathtub, which immediately deformed and recovered its shape, he came up with the idea of ​​using foams in the soles of the shoes, Olivier Bernhard, the On triathlete, discovered in the hoses the differential cushioning element, the cloud that the brand proclaims, to be added to the sole under the foams and carbon plates of the competition.

Philipp Hagel, in Barcelona.ON

“It is already an honor to be compared to Nike and Adidas,” says in Barcelona Philipp Hagel, one of the sports footwear managers at the Zurich firm, which he joined from the German giant. And in 2024, the Olympic year, it must multiply to promote new developments for Paris that are still secret. The Olympic Games are the great fair of innovation and espionage. Only months later was discovered, for example, the mystery of the Nikes with which Eliud Kipchoge flew in the Rio 2016 marathon, the foams and the plates. “I would like to tell more about the product we are going to launch at the Olympic Games, but I can’t say much. We are explorers who seek change. Changing not only the idea of ​​how a shoe is designed and how it is constructed. The spirit of the founders is to do things differently. And as a young and smaller brand we can be more dynamic, more agile. Positive innocence also led the founders to talk to high-performance athletes to collaborate, to put our ideas and visions into action, and with some it has worked.”

Wearing shoes from the Swiss brand, Roger Federer announced that he had become one of its largest shareholders and had convinced Iga Swiatek, the best tennis player in the world, to hit rackets on its soft soles and wear its clothes. Wearing shoes from the Swiss brand, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won the Boston Marathon in April and the New York Marathon in November; the Swiss Tadesse Abraham the recent Barcelona marathon; and, running in a club financed by them, the OAC, some of the best Spaniards can be professionals and make a living from athletics, such as Marta García, Mario García Romo or Mohamed Attaoui, who will shine at the Paris Games. It is private initiative surpassing, in a certain way, the limits of the public system of aid to athletes.

Jaime García Romo.
Jaime García Romo.ON

“It is not within our strategy to land with money, sign I don’t know how many athletes and that’s it. We want to do it in a sustainable way and really provide a solution,” says Jaime García Romo, one of those responsible for the relationship between the brand and the athletes, who highlights its difference with already established brands. “That’s why right now we only have about 150 athletes in total, across the entire brand and we don’t have 2,000. Athletes are also people who tomorrow will stop being athletes and will have to move on with their lives, like Nicola Spirig, 2012 Olympic triathlon champion, who works with me. That’s a bit of the vision. We have a relationship with the athletes not so much as a sponsor, but also almost as an employee. We give them the security that when they retire they will have a job here.”

The team members live together in one of the company’s four residences – in the United States, Switzerland, South Africa and Australia – where they have trainers, physiologists, nutritionists, physios, psychologists, and they train together. “If you want to have important results you have to do your concentrations, you have to control your training, your workloads, you have to have everything super controlled. Now everything is much more scientific, but it has to be if you want to be up there, if not, it is very difficult to get there.”

Thus, the path that Nike began at the beginning of the century with coach Alberto Salazar, the long-distance guru with the Oregon team that disbanded a decade ago following doping accusations and Salazar’s suspension, continues. One of the athletes who contributed to his fall, denouncing that Salazar gave them thyroid hormone medication, was Dathan Ritzenhein, precisely the coach at the OAC, in Boulder (Colorado), of Mario García Romo, the best Spanish in 1,500m. Like his brother, Jaime García Romo, from Salamanca from Villar de Gallimazo, studied at an American university, in Kentucky, with a scholarship awarded for his athletic abilities. “This OAC group training system reminds me a lot of the American university system. You have athletes from different parts of the world to whom the university provides a study scholarship, facilities, takes you to competitions, and provides you with clothing and shoes when you need them,” says García Romo. “It is also a bit of that type of philosophy, similar to that of a cycling team: a combination of what the team is, because if you support your teammates it makes you better, but it is always an individual sport. And each athlete has a different training plan depending on their event, their characteristics, to perform 100% at that key moment.”

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