Going for gold: does technology lead to Olympic success?


Technology, Data & Analytics, Development & Testing...


The GB cycling track team have put their pedal to the medal to win six gold and four silver medals at this year’s Rio Olympics, which left rivals questioning their incredible mass success. A major contributor to their triumph on the track can be simply put down to the use of cutting edge equipment and technology; from aerodynamic skinsuits that have improved their performance up to 5%, to bikes created by the former boss of the Jaguar F1 team. Former British racing cyclist Chris Boardman says that “The British team have always been at the head of the technology race and we’ve seen that again here.” [at Rio Olympics].

When you first think of the Rio Olympics, technology and innovation isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Athletes win because of pure talent, skill and training in their field of sport right?
But what if technology could be utilised to improve their skill and performance like the GB cyclist team have done? With a little research, we have discovered that other different types of technology have been used by athletes to get ahead in their contest for personal bests, world records and gold medals.


Data Driven Performance Analysis

Data collection and analysis can be applied to nearly every sport; measuring all that athletes do, from training to workouts. This is then collated and offered as data that shows some relation to what their actual performance at the Olympics would be.

Boxers for team GB have successfully utilised this type of analysis to hopefully drive medal winning punches using “iBoxer” software developed by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sports and Engineering Research (CSER). The software uses a series of hi-tech video cameras to monitor boxers’ movement, which is then fed back to screens where athletes can go over their footage between sessions of training to analyse and improve on their performance.

Wearable technology

Video recording is not the only way of analysing the jabs, throws and movement of a boxer in the ring.  American Boxer Tommy Duquette, developed a wearable tech – Hykso sensor, that calculates the amount and speed of punches being thrown.  The sensor is designed to be worn inside the boxer’s hand wraps and using two separate accelerometers with a gyroscope for full 3D motion tracking, it tracks the movement at 1,000 times per second. 

The wearable tech then analyses and gives a breakdown of the athlete’s workout, enabling them to measure whether they are throwing the targeted percentage amount of punch rate.  The sensor has proven to reduce hours spent watching back boxers’ performance on video frame by frame, and allows them to see their improvements in performance not just statistically but first hand.


SAP- data analytics

Technology has also helped medals to become plain sailing on the waters. Reflecting on their performance from previous Olympic games, the German sailing team looked to SAP to help them increase their performance on the water. Similar to how the “iBoxer” analysed the boxer’s movement in the ring, the German sailing team used SAP software to measure a number of elements that would affect their performance such as ocean tidal currents and wind. This was achieved by attaching GPS devices and sensors to the boats. SAP then created virtual models based on the data collated, which enabled the constantly changing conditions such as the weather and tide to be analysed.



 Emerging technologies- 3D Printing

Emerging technologies can also have a significant impact on Paralympic sport, with Autodesk an American software corporation joining forces with German Paralympic cyclist Denise Schindler to design her a 3D printed prosthetic leg.

To create the prosthetic, a 3D scan was taken of the athlete’s leg and a digital version was then modelled using the software company’s cloud design tool Fusion 360. The leg was then formed in the 3D printer, with the whole process taking around 5 days and costing less than a traditionally made prosthetic.  The newly printed prosthesis was then tested and weighing at 812 g, it apparently reduced the athletes 3km ride by 2 seconds.


Technology has come a long way in sport in enabling athletes to track, measure and quantify their performance through data analysis, and with hopeful athletes aiming for and winning medals in their respective field it has proven to be a valuable partner to the Olympics.


What are your thoughts on the relationship between sport and tech? Tweet us at @EligChlo!

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