Olympic athletes use software to analyse performance

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The Olympics are now under way, with athletes fighting for the fractions of a section that make the difference between a gold medal and no medal. Athletes train for years in anticipation of the events, and teams employ armies of coaches. On their own however, coaches can only remember a small amount of an athlete’s performance during training (typically 30%), and can miss the minute details which can make such a difference. This limits their ability to give useful feedback.But new technology is changing that. With high speed digital cameras which record at 300 frames per second, and reflectors attached to key parts of the athlete (much like motion capture systems), large amounts of performance data can be captured.

One basic way this is used is to improve cyclists’ performances. Speed and power output of the cyclist’s legs can be measured by software as different combinations of seat height and handlebar position are tried, in order to find the most effective bike setup.

More advanced examples include using “ghost tracks” – much like those found in some racing computer games – to display a faint video of a previous performance (or a competitor’s performance) against the athlete’s current performance. This allows them to hone their skills in small sections of their overall performance.

Digital performance analysis software is now used by virtually all Olympic teams, and the stadiums have dedicated areas for performance analysts to record their footage.

Read more on: BBC Click (includes video)

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