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Our Historical Commitment

The evolution of our commitment to safety and R&D had an interesting beginning. It started, essentially, when Dr. Greg McNeice, P.Eng with expertise in stress analysis began working with orthopedic surgeons in Canada and the United States on a variety of problems involving stress in human bones, joints and prostheses. As a consequence of this bioengineering work in the medical field, in 1979 he was retained as an expert defense witness in a lawsuit in a school gymnasium in which a student's neck was broken. The student had been working on a piece of gym apparatus and fell, landing headfirst on a mat (not ours). Dr. McNeice's research showed that the mat was virtually useless in terms of absorbing the kind of energy the student's fall represented.

Following this case for some time, Murray Anderson contacted Dr. McNeice to determine if he would be willing to help in the development of safer gym mats. Although mats have been used in gymnasiums for scores of years, no one had ever developed quantitative, scientific data through which reliable safety standards could be pre-determined. Said Dr. McNeice at the time: "It seems to have been something of a guessing game although admittedly a good deal of practical experience has gone into the collective wisdom of the experts. Still we've searched the literature very thoroughly and have been unable to find much in the way of scientific data in this area. One reason, of course, is that it's hard to collect the data; you can't simply go around dropping people on their heads to measure what happens."

Dr. McNeices's studies in connection with the court case involved developing a mechanical model of a human body and submitting it to measured drops in this lab. He found that in the case of the high school student, the impact on the top of his head when he hit the mat would have been in excess of 1,400 pounds.

Working closely with Dr. McNeice was Dr. Robert Norman, a kinesiology professor and a specialist in biomechanics. He had done extensive lab work on the evaluation of helmets for hockey players and jet pilots. A formidable partnership was born. Together, Murray and Dr.'s McNeice and Norman spent the next several years searching for better raw materials and the development of safer products. Our purchase of a HYBRID 111 automotive crash dummy elevated the R&D to a level never before seen in the sport.

Throughout the years to follow there were many set backs as well as great success. Research and Development is a long-term commitment and you learn not to expect overnight success.

Highlights have included the introduction of the Ortho-Air Floor, 1st introduced at the 1980 World Cup. That floor evolved to the Foam Cube Floor, 1st introduced at the 1985 World Championships, later evolving into the Tri-Flex Cube Floor. G-Force Landing Mats were designed to provide perimeter support and areas with additional reinforcement for greater stability to the gymnast during off center impacts. It was a well designed and fabulously functional mat but too cost prohibitive to produce and sell to the majority of the market. They proved to serve only the largest and most elite gymnastic facilities

A major design aspect of the G-force landing mat was the introduction of the upper reinforced closed-cell polyethylene foam layer in landing mats. This stiffer layer placed above the thicker, commonly used open-cell polyurethane foams resulted in the landing impact forces to be dissipated over a much larger area. This also increased the stability of the landing without making the mat stiffer. A subsequent generation of mats introduced a premium combination of different polyurethanes and double reinforced polyethylene in successive layering of foams, building the "no sting" feature right into the landing mat. And so it goes.

We are proud of our contributions to the sport and global mat safety. We were the FIRST company in North America to introduce F.I.G. landing mats, Rollable Free X Floors and the use of Trocellen polyurethane foam in mats and floors more than 25 years ago. In fact, this foam absolutely revolutionized mat and floor manufacturing. Today, these products have been widely copied which is a testament to the outstanding design and quality of product we produce. Our steel apparatus continues to evolve and improve to meet the needs of the athlete, which is an absolute priority.

Where are we today? Well, after 27 years of our-sourcing our technology needs, our R&D test facility is now in house. And although recently retired from full-time academic teaching and research, Dr. McNeice still guides our Engineering technologists in our technology development. Our equipment includes state of the art PC computer based data acquisition, processing and storage systems complete with static and dynamic test sensors and synchronized high digital video cameras and lighting. This state of the art equipment combined with impact test frames that incorporate impact weights and release mechanisms allow us to perform various product performance impact and surface friction tests for compliance with F.I.G. standards. It is the only facility of its kind that is capable of testing gymnastics apparatus to F.I.G. standards in North America. This new facility also allows us to develop new or improved products based on quantitative performance standards while in-house, as well as real-time performance data collected on site.

Our guiding R&D principles and corporate philosophy are the same today as they were in 1980, indeed back to 1971. We believe that sport is absolutely fundamental to the development of our youth regardless of physical capabilities and individual expertise. We feel so strongly about this that our entire tradition is based on a commitment to build the best and safest product we can. This is our responsibility to you and it is one we take very seriously.