Science Editor Tom Clarke looks at the growing band of sports scientists seeking ways to help competitors follow the Olympic motto of going "faster, higher, stronger".
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Since the days of woollen shorts and cinder track, athletic performance has kept on improving.
As time goes by, there have simply been more and more people on the planet - so there are more exceptional athletes to choose from nutrition, medicine and training facilities have improved steadily, too. But in most sports it is technology that is making the biggest difference to how far, how high, or how fast people can go.
At Loughborough University, they are designing power into pairs of sprinters spikes.
Using a process called 3D printing, the stiffness is built into the shoes. The spiked sole is laid down layer by layer.
They are then matched to the athlete. The precise power of the first step is measured using digital motion-capture technology. The end result is a shoe that gets the most out of a sprinter's foot.
Take cycling. Revolutions in bike design, new composite materials, helmets and clothing have slashed cycling records. The men's one-hour has improved more than 200 per cent since records began.
Lighter, more aerodynamic javelins have nearly doubled the distances they can be thrown: there has been a 95 per cent improvement since 1936.
Fibreglass and carbon fibre did the same for pole vault, with an 86 per cent improvement since 1918.
But on the track there is less kit - and less improvement. Men's 100 sprint times have risen just 24 per cent in over 100 years.
But not all technologies enhance performance directly.
In Sheffield, Team GB divers like Nick Robinson Baker have used a new technology to hone every somersault, twist and pike.
Olympic competitors are being shielded from the media right now, but junior international Georgina Davenport helped to demonstrate to Channel 4 News.
A force sensor in the board measures her jump. High-speed cameras record every detail. The pictures are instantly available for coach and diver to review.
The man who developed the technology argues that the Games have always been about those who have it versus those who do not.
The rules dictate how much technology is too much. It is why jetpacks are confined to opening ceremonies. But this Olympics and Paralympics will be a test of the latest human ingenuity applied to the greatest in human ability.
29 November 2011
20 July 2011