Our research is featured in a new report, Supporting a UK success story: The impact of university research and sport development, which highlights some of the many ways in which research has helped Team GB limber up and prepare for London 2012.
The report has been released as part of Universities Week (30 April – 7 May) to show the impact of universities’ research and sport development on the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and UK sport generally.
It highlights how research is helping to give athletes that extra split second or millimetre advantage which can mean the difference between gold and silver medals in competitive sports.
The report takes an in-depth look at how exploration and development in the areas of technology, health and wellbeing, design, sport development and participation and the Games past and present, have contributed to London 2012 and the UK sports industry.
Technology: Applying Science
- Dr Aki Salo, a senior lecturer in sport biomechanics, has worked with elite athletes for over 20 years, studying the fundamental principles underlying performance to improve their technique and efficiency, specialising in sprinting and hurdling.
His research focuses on mathematical modelling for sprint starts, investigations into sprinting on bends, for example in the 200 metres, and work with 4×100 metre relay teams on the efficiency of baton exchanges.
He has worked with athletes who have achieved medal success, notably the winning 4×100 metre men’s relay team at the Athens Olympics 2004, including Bath’s Jason Gardener. This summer he will advise and support athletes in their preparations, right through to the Games.
Health and Wellbeing: Performance
- Dr James Betts, a lecturer in human metabolism and nutrition, is leading a team to better understand the mechanisms of fatigue during exercise. He is looking at instances where repeated bouts of exercise are required without an adequate break for full physical recovery.
The research will help to develop evidence-based nutrition and training programmes for athletes in the lead-up to future Olympic and Paralympic Games and the ongoing daily training of athletes and recreational exercisers.
Technology: Football Focused
- Dr Ken Bray, a Senior Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Engineering and Design, has specialised in the physics of ball flight, research which has produced valuable insights into the swerving free kick. He has also investigated the controversial topic of goal-line technology and strategies for improving the success rate in penalty kicks and penalty shoot-outs.
“It is sometimes easy to forget when you watch an athlete or team compete just how much preparation has gone into their performance,” said Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK. “This isn’t simply a question of training schedules and practice. These days, cutting-edge university research is used to support every aspect of Olympic sports – from nutrition and health to equipment, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and, of course, performance. For instance, the combination of design and technology can be immensely effective for top athletes so that the actual design of a kayak or bob-sleigh can be as important to athletes as their own skill and training.”