This week and next BusinessCloud is placing the spotlight on how tech is revolutionising sport.

Technology is playing a huge part in the Rio preparations for the British Para Swimming team, based at Manchester Aquatics Centre.

Substantial investment was made last year when the pool became one of the first in the world to take delivery of a Kistler Performance Analysis System, which analyses swimming starts, turns and relay changeovers.

The device takes the shape of a starting block that has force platforms built into it, with a portable turning plate and is used in conjunction with high-speed underwater cameras that can provide immediate feedback.

While video footage was used previously it was provided by a hand-held camera, and the Kistler combines the force data with the visual footage to produce results. 

“It generates a huge amount of data including the angle of flight, the size of the hole in the water the swimmer makes and the speed they leave the block, for example – things we’ve never been able to look at before,” says Catherine Gilby, head of sports science and sports medicine with the team.

“We use the system to collect baseline data about what the athlete normally does and this data is then analysed by our technical race skills analyst to identify where we can make improvements; these could be adjusting the angle of take-off or adjusting the setting of the wedge on the block.

“An intervention with an athlete can be interdisciplinary in nature.

“For example, the limiting factor to making a performance improvement may be their ankle flexibility and the athlete and coach can bring in the physio to help. 

“It’s an amazing bit of kit but our more important investment has been made in a member of staff who operates it and is an expert in the biomechanics of movement.”

British Para Swimming Kistler

Sessions using the Kistler are offered to those swimmers whose training plan suggests their performance may benefit and those athletes who have a process goal linked to race skills.

The equipment and the expert, provided as part of a partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, comes up with the data and a resulting intervention to support them achieve their goal.

A follow-up session on the Kistler will measure their improvement.

“There are lots of different elements that make up a swim and when you see how much Paralympic medals are won and lost by, methods like this become important,” Gilby says.

“The athletes can see the benefits already but our true test of how it’s improved our starts and turns will be in Rio – that was always our marker, we want to be the best nation at starting and turning as we believe that this will help to ensure our athletes achieve lifetime best performances at the right time and this equipment is helping make sure we can do that.” 

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