Follow my journey as a Students Live reporter through the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Technology in Sport

It's been a whole week since the Paralympic Games were distinguished, and I am still in awe of how those athletes perform like they do. Not only were the weather conditions terrible, making it hard for any athlete to perform their best, but these athletes have some sort of disadvantage they must overcome.

Since the Paralympic Games started in 1948, the athletes have became so much faster and so much stronger, but the technology behind the sports have also improved immensely. I found it so interesting to learn about all the special equipment and technology needed for training and competing, and even physio, treatments and every day life.

At the sledge hockey, athletes get their sledges totally customized to their preferences. For some athletes it takes years for them to discover what is most comfortable, and what allows them to preform best. In the Alpine sit-ski it is roughly the same. All seats are customized, except here they can choose whether they want two skis under their seat or only one. They can choose what type of ski, how long and how wide. One skier we talked to said it took him 4 years of testing out skis to finally feel like he's got the best equipment possible for the Paralympic Games. He then said however, "Every day technology is getting better, so by the time I'm comfortable with something, something better and faster has come out, and then I must change again. It's a never ending cycle."

After the visually impaired Giant Slalom finals, I overheard Jessica Gallagher of Australia who had just won the bronze medal talking to her mother. She and her guide said how their head pieces decided not to work for them that run. For those who don't know how visually impaired skiing works, there is a skier and a guide. The guide skis in the front of the pair, and has a headset on telling the athlete when to turn, how hard to turn, if there's a bump or a icy patch. The visually impaired skier in the back has a headpiece to, mainly to listen, but also to say something if there is an emergency, for example if they fell the guide would not know because they are skiing ahead.

I was amazed that even with no sort of communication, a visually impaired skier could make it down the course cleanly, let alone win the bronze medal. You find it hard to believe that with our technology today, and in such an important moment a crucial piece of technology would fail to deliver. This is where the part comes in that in the past couple of years, technology has advanced so much and now plays a huge part in sport. But it is also true that technology still has so much further to come and in future years we will see it develop greatly.

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