No athlete in the US Olympic delegation is so familiar with the heat of a Japanese summer by Sakura Kokumai.
Making her Olympic debut in karate (women’s kata), Kokumai studied and worked in Japan before the Olympics, a decision that pushed her to return to the United States and devote all her time to training.
Before that, Kokkai wore a suit and boarded the Tokyo train every day.
“Warm is not even (the word),” Kokumai told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s very wet, very sticky, very hot.”
Temperature was the primary concern of the US Olympic team, Ralph Lauren, as he designed the opening ceremony uniform, which was unveiled on Wednesday. David Lauren, vice president of the company and head of the brand and innovation company, said the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) wanted to dress the athletes in the opening ceremony jacket as a way to highlight its aspect. world embassy.
“Every time we create an Olympic costume, we know (the world) wants to see, ‘What is America?’ “Lauren told USA TODAY Sports.
The jacket is similar to the uniform Kokumai wore every day to work – a major innovation for the hottest Olympics.
Ralph Lauren debuts the RL COOLING jacket, which includes a device that allows users to automatically adjust the temperature.
The device with the battery, located at the back of the neck, creates a feeling of cooling that lasts, even in the most oppressive heat.
For Lauren, the challenge was to create something that celebrated American style and craftsmanship – a classic and clever look – while ensuring athletes felt comfortable.
“I’m very excited to be wearing (the jacket),” Kokkai said.
In addition to the navy jacket (made from American wool), the suit includes a T-shirt, a printed scarf, shoes and – still a pandemic – a mask. All materials have an element of sustainability and environment.
This is also part of the inspiration behind the cooling jacket, said Lauren, a product that “seems to be able to change the way we think.” A study by the US Department of Energy showed that personal, portable thermal management could one day reduce dependence on mass cooling systems, such as HVAC. The company first began exploring technology ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the Ralph Lauren Heated Jacket debuted.
“The way I dress,” Lauren said, “can not only look great, but it can be wonderful.
“We all need to become more aware that we can push the boundaries, that we can innovate to solve problems in new ways.”
As the opening ceremony in Tokyo will be limited to VIPs only and Japanese fans will not be allowed, the flag – white jacket will be the only one equipped with the technology. Kokkai will not arrive in Tokyo until July 25, when she will not attend the ceremony. No details have been released since Tokyo 2020 on how COVID protocols may further affect the ceremony.
All Team USA athletes will eventually receive a cool jacket, however, and it will eventually be sold to the public.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BBOOMbaca.