To celebrate the launch of the new Sport and Physical Activity Research Centre (SPARC) website, we are shining a spotlight on our sports and physical activity research groups.
Dr Simon Goodwill has kindly been speaking with us about how our Sports Engineering Research Group has been helping Team GB maximise its medal-winning chances at Tokyo 2020 . . .
“Today marks the four-month countdown to the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020 on 23rd July 2021. Over the last four years, the Sports Engineering Research Group (SERG) has been providing research support to the Performance Innovation and Sports Intelligence teams at the English Institute of Sport (EIS). All of this work has been focused towards Team GB maximising its medal-winning chances at Tokyo 2020. We develop bespoke, innovative systems that monitor and help improve the performance of the athletes in both training and competition environments. We will be working closely with the sports’ practitioners over the next four months, ensuring all our systems are fully optimised and our athletes are perfectly prepared for the upcoming Olympics.
“An example of a system that we have installed in an elite training centre is the SwimTrack kinetic and kinematic analysis system for British Swimming. SwimTrack incorporates four underwater cameras and six above water cameras feeding directly into software running on a poolside PC. This video data is synchronised to data captured from an instrumented start block and turn plate, enabling the analysts to give immediate quantitative feedback. SwimTrack is a good example of how SERG’s team of researchers have worked together to deliver a world-leading analysis system, overcoming the technical challenges inherent in this project.
“The SwimTrack system is used by British Swimming to analyse the starts and turns of their elite athletes, including Adam Peaty MBE, an eight-time world champion. The data can be used to quantifiably inform coaches of the overall effect on performance when a different start or turn strategy is used. Furthermore, we involve our students in this type of research which provides them with invaluable experience working with elite athletes and solving real-world challenges.
“Our researchers are an integral part of the extensive team of practitioners who support the 1000+ athletes that are funded by the UK Sport High Performance System. As Team GB takes to the stage in Tokyo, our research team can watch proudly, knowing they have contributed to the athletes’ journey and helped prepare them for competition.
“Whilst COVID has brought disruption to the training and competition schedule for our elite athletes over the last year, we have adapted and evolved our systems to cope with these challenges. For example, we have developed a bespoke temperature monitoring system at the entrance to an elite training facility that integrates to our performance data management systems. This minimises mutual points of contact, and provides the coaches with real-time updates on athlete status. Ultimately, helping to maintain the health and wellbeing of our athletes.
“In the last 10 years, we have conducted over 130 individual projects as part of the EIS partnership. Our work has contributed to 24 medals at London 2012 and 42 medals at Rio 2016 for Team GB. Let us hope that we have an equally successful, or better, Tokyo 2020!
“Then, once the Tokyo Olympic Games are over, we will immediately begin our work for the Paris 2024 cycle. The push for competitive advantage never stands still, and we contribute to this endless drive for improved performance by constantly innovating and providing novel performance analysis solutions for Team GB.”
The below medal tables highlight SERG’s research that supported Team GB at both the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the London 2012 Olympic Games.