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    The best gifts for sports lovers

    3 December 2020

    Slinger Bag tennis ball launcher

    Get some net time in with the slinger tennis ball launcher

    Public tennis courts were officially shut during lockdown – but anyone with access to a flat, court-sized piece of ground could make good use of the brilliant Slinger Bag. This portable tennis ball launcher takes the form of a wheeled case containing an electric motor and sufficient space for 144 balls.

    Charge it up at home and it will fire them at you for three hours at speeds of up to 40mph and at trajectories of 10 to 40 degrees. The base can be set to oscillate or to remain fixed, while delivery is stopped and started from a remote control fob. All-up weight with a full complement of tennis balls is around 50lbs, but the Slinger Bag fits easily into the load space of most hatchback cars. A built-in charging socket enables users to top-up devices as they play, and optional extras include a phone camera mounting bracket so you can film your textbook technique. Even more useful, however, is a ball collection tube. £780

    Saucony Ride 13 running shoe

    There are plenty of high profile sports shoe brands on the market, but few boast the history or track record (in all senses) of Saucony. Pronounced ‘sock a knee’ the firm dates back to 1898 when it was founded on the banks of the Saucony Creek beside Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It began making sports shoes a decade or so later, but only came to wider prominence in 1979 when some of its products were voted among the best available by Runner’s World magazine. The recently-launched Ride 13 shoe weighs a light 278 grammes, but is both highly supportive and encouragingly springy on the run. The firm’s ‘underfoot cradle’ system allows the insole and cushioning to form to the wearer’s shape for the next best thing to a bespoke fit. Go for the Mutant Yellow colour scheme if you want people to see you coming. £125

    NURVV Run ‘smart’ insoles

    Described as having a ‘running laboratory on each foot’, NURVV run is a new, British-made product that tracks running performance to the Nth degree. Each insole contains a series of sensors that accurately measure the pressure applied by every part of the foot and instantly send the data to an individual tracker that fits discreetly to the side of the shoe. All the information gathered is then sent by Bluetooth to the wearer’s smartphone to enable him or her to analyse it in order to discover everything from speeds achieved to quality of technique, step length, balance and cadence. And, if a phone or smartwatch is worn in tandem with NURVV, it will even give you a vocal coaching session. £250

    Aston Martin AMR-CO1 Curv race simulator

    Live the F1 dream

    You’ll never match Lewis Hamilton’s remarkable tally of seven Formula One World Championship victories – but you could have a great deal of fun trying to match some of his lap times using this hyper-realistic race simulator. Designed by Aston Martin and developed by the marque’s long-standing works driver, Darren Turner, the sim features a carbon fibre monocoque with a front based on the grille of an AMR competition car. The seating position, meanwhile, is modelled on that of Aston’s Valykrie hypercar, and the system is powered by state-of-the-art Assetto Corsa software to provide an eye-poppingly realistic race experience. Just 150 will be available, each made to order. £69,000

    FORB golf putt returner

    Perfect your putt

    The seemingly insatiable enthusiasm of golf enthusiasts to spend vast sums on gadgets that promise lower scores has developed into a multi-million dollar market brimming with expensive kit ranging from titanium ‘woods’ to fairway scanners that can plot the optimum route for every shot. The popularity of most devices comes and goes with the seasons, but there is one golfing aid that has survived the test of time for almost half-a-century – the automatic putting machine. Cheap, simple, compact and effective, it can be used inside or out and contains a battery-powered motor that fires the ball back towards the user every time a successful putt is struck. Perfect for solo practice and utterly addictive, it costs less than the green fee for nine holes on a municipal course…..£14.99

    Flexifoil Camera Kite

    The sky’s the limit

    Flexifoil is the British company that invented the ‘power kite’ way back in 1972 and which now produces models that are so large and powerful that they are only recommended for use by adults. The Camera Kite, however, offers fun for all since it’s a gentler model designed specifically to carry a Go-Pro or smartphone in order to create the type of aerial videos which could once only have been shot while hanging out of an aircraft or helicopter. The £100 kit contains everything you’ll need to start filming, including the kite, protective gloves, anchor leash, line reel, stabiliser and a waterproof backpack to keep it all in. And, like all Flexifoil kites, it’s guaranteed for life….. £119.97

    Porsche Design/Huawei GT2 smartwatch

    Porsche Design has collaborated with Chinese tech company Huawei since 2016, during which time it has penned the lines of some of its sleekest telephones. Now the partnership has produced the GT2 timepiece that combines the looks of a classic, all-titanium Porsche Design watch with a sophisticated smartwatch module capable of tracking the wearer’s performance in 100 different sports, be that a case of compiling data about swing rate and tempo on the golf driving range or offering ‘voice guidance’ when you’re running.

    There’s also an ‘outdoor assist’ mode showing the exact times of sunrise and sunset, low and high tide and what the weather is going to be like . It will even guide you back to safety if you get lost along a trail. Stand-out functionality as a health tracker is also claimed, thanks to advanced sleep and heart rate monitoring that will record stress and SpO2 – the level of oxygen saturation in the blood (something that, theoretically, could help with the advance detection of Coronavirus symptoms). £629

    Columbia Men’s Three Forks Black Dot Jacket


    The latest gizmo from technical sportswear brand Columbia is the Men’s Three Forks Black Dot Jacket  made from a new type of textile featuring a so-called ‘external thermal shield.’ Perfect for those bitterly cold morning runs, the jacket is covered in tiny, black dots made from aluminium and treated with a black coating to enable them to absorb the maximum amount of heat from either direct or diffused sunlight.

    Additionally, the thermal-reflective lining of the jacket is designed to push heat back onto the wearer. Water resistant and with zipped pockets, adjustable cups and a removable rain hood, it offers an impressive degree of protection from the elements while being light and non-restrictive – so it’s’ perfect for outdoor sports use on nippy days. £270