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Preparation is key when training for the Olympic Games – and Stellenbosch University scientists used laser technology and high-speed cameras to help athletes improve their performances at the Paralympic Games.
The university’s Centre for Human Performance Sciences’ (CHPS) latest project, the SA Sprinting Project, has employed the Fast (Force, Acceleration, Speed and Times) system to help their athletes improve for the Games. There are 20 athletes from the university taking part in the Paralympic Games.
The athletes were tested over seven sessions conducted over four- to six-week intervals in the months leading up to the Games.
Mahomed Ally, a coach at the university, said: “This sets it apart from standard speed-testing equipment currently being used in South Africa.”
Gareth Paterson, a CHPS sports technologist, said: “The Fast system was developed in order to close the gap between coaches and those scientists who can generate high-quality data and scientific analysis of performance.”
The system uses force-sensitive starting blocks which measure the amount of force generated at the start of the race. This can measure any inconsistencies in leg strength, pretension on the blocks, and the maximum force generated.
The speed and acceleration of the athlete is measured by laser tracking and high-speed cameras placed behind the athlete. A laser beam aimed at the athletes lower back gives 400 laser position measurements every second.
“This gives us millimetre accuracy for various parameters,” Paterson said. “These include exact speed in 5m intervals from the first 5m.”
Ally said the system’s data can be used to assess athletes’ progress and help with recovery from injury.