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Jos J. de Koning

The quality of performance during international competitions such as the Olympic Games and various world championships is often judged by the number of world records attained. The simple fact that world records continue to improve is evidence that sports performance is progressing. Does this also mean that athletes are improving? Is the continual progression of world-record performances evidence that contemporary athletes are superior to the athletes who performed in the past? Technological developments may obscure insight into the athletic enhancement made by athletes over the years. This commentary tries to separate technological and athletic enhancement in the progression of world records by the use of a power balance model.

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Olivier Hue

The tropical climate is unique in that the seasons are dominated by the movement of the tropical rain belt, resulting in dry and wet seasons rather than the four-season pattern of changes in temperature and day length seen in other parts of the world. More than 33% of the world population lives in the humid tropics, which are characterized by consistently high monthly temperatures and rainfall that exceeds evapotranspiration for most days of the year. Both the 2014 Football World Cup (in Brazil) and the 2016 Olympic Games (in Rio de Janeiro) will take place in this climate. This review focuses on the effects of the tropical environment on human exercise performance, with a special emphasis on prolonged aerobic exercise, such as swimming, cycling, and running. Some of the data were collected in Guadeloupe, the French West Indies Island where all the French teams will be training for the 2016 Olympic Games. We will first fully define the tropical climate and its effects on performance in these sports. Then we will discuss the types of adaptation that help to enhance performance in this climate, as well as the issues concerning the prescription of adequate training loads. We will conclude with some perspectives for future research.

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Emerson Franchini, Monica Y. Takito, Rodrigo M. da Silva, Seihati A. Shiroma, Lance Wicks and Ursula F. Julio

Purpose:

To determine the optimal interval between competitions for success in the different events of the judo world tour.

Methods:

A total of 20,916 female and 29,900 male competition participations in the judo world-tour competitions held between January 2009 and December 2015 were analyzed, considering the dependent variable, winning a medal, and the independent variables, levels of competition.

Results:

There was an increased probability of winning a medal when the interval was in the 10- to 13-wk range for both male and female athletes competing at Grand Prix, Continental-Championship, and World-Championship events, whereas for Grand Slam, only men had an increased probability of winning a medal in this interval range. Furthermore, men had increased probability of podium positions in Continental Championship, World Master, and Olympic Games when the interval was longer than 14 wk.

Conclusion:

Optimal interval period between successive competitions varies according to competition level and sex; shorter intervals (6–9 wk) were better for female athletes competing at the lowest competition level (Continental Open), but for most of the competitions, the 10- to 13-wk interval was detected as optimal for both male and female athletes (Grand Prix, Continental Championship, and World Championship), whereas for the ranking-based qualified male competitions (ie, Masters and Olympic Games), a longer period (>14 wk) is needed.

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Marla K. Beauchamp, Richard H. Harvey and Pierre H. Beauchamp

The present article outlines the development and implementation of a multifaceted psychological skills training program for the Canadian National Short Track Speedskating team over a 3-year period leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. A program approach was used emphasizing a seven-phase model in an effort to enhance sport performance (Thomas, 1990) in which psychological skills training was integrated with biofeedback training to optimize self-regulation for performance on demand and under pressure. The biofeedback training protocols were adapted from general guidelines described by Wilson, Peper, and Moss (2006) who built on the work of DeMichelis (2007) and the “Mind Room” program approach for enhancing athletic performance. The goal of the program was to prepare the athletes for their best performance under the pressure of the Olympic Games. While causation cannot be implied due to the lack of a control group, the team demonstrated success on both team and individual levels.

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Ruud W. de Boer and Kim L. Nilsen

The 1988 Winter Olympic Games provided a unique opportunity to study large numbers of optimally prepared speed skaters during ideal ice and weather conditions for all the competitors (indoor Olympic Oval in Calgary). In this study a kinematic analysis was conducted of the gliding and push-off technique during the Men’s and Ladies' 1,500-m and 5,000-m races. Statistical analysis showed that factors such as trunk position, preextension knee angle, and peak knee and hip angular velocities failed to correlate with mean lap speed. Within such a homogeneous group of elite athletes it was found that the higher work per stroke of the faster skaters was correlated to a longer gliding phase and a more horizontally directed push-off. All skaters showed plantar flexion at the end of the stroke, which is undesirable and indicates the complex nature of the gliding and push-off technique in speed skating.

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Ruud W. de Boer and Kim L. Nilsen

The mechanics of speed skating the curves is described in a mathematical model, using the sideward push-off characteristics of the propulsion and the cyclic nature of the movement. Theoretical and experimental relations between mechanical work per stroke, stroke frequency, and speed were studied with Olympic speed skaters. High-speed film and video measurements collected at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary provided the basic experimental data. Because of the ideal external conditions (indoor Olympic Oval) and the large numbers of optimally prepared specialists participating, unique scientific results on technical aspects of speed skating could be obtained. Statistical analysis and theoretical considerations showed that stroke frequency can be judged as the major regulator of speed. Unexpectedly, it was not possible to detect changes in speed within one lap.

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Michael M. Morlock and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

The performance in bobsledding is influenced by several factors. This study concentrated on influences of the environment and the bobsled crew on the final time of a bobsled run. The analysis was performed with data collected during the four-man competition at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. It was shown that the start order, the ice temperature, and the push time together explain about 50% of the variance in the performance (α=0.05). It is suggested that the existing rule concerning the start order in a heat be modified to guarantee a fair competition. Selected speed and turn time variables were shown to give an indication of the characteristics and the important sections of the bobsled track at Canada Olympic Park. It is speculated that the optimization of turn times is more important than the increase in speed in a turn.

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David G. Kerwin, Maurice R. Yeadon and Sung-Cheol Lee

An 11-segment three-dimensional simulation model was used to modify the body configurations of eight gymnasts performing multiple somersault dismounts during the Men’s High Bar competition in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Four layout double somersault performances were modified to change a characteristic backward arch to a straight body position. This modification reduced the somersault rotation by 0.03 to 0.10 somersaults. Four tucked triple somersault performances were modified so that the thigh abduction angle was reduced to zero. This modification resulted in underrotations ranging from 0.01 to 0.34 somersaults depending on the amount of thigh abduction in the original movement. The additional angular momentum needed for successful completion of the modified movements was small in general and in no case greater than 13%.

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Laura Capranica, Maria Francesca Piacentini, Shona Halson, Kathryn H. Myburgh, Etsuko Ogasawara and Mindy Millard-Stafford

Sport is recognized as playing a relevant societal role to promote education, health, intercultural dialogue, and the individual development, regardless of an individual’s gender, race, age, ability, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background. Yet, it was not until the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London that every country’s delegation included a female competitor. The gender gap in sport, although closing, remains, due to biological differences affecting performance, but it is also influenced by reduced opportunity and sociopolitical factors that influence full female participation across a range of sports around the world. Until the cultural environment is equitable, scientific discussion related to physiological differences using methods that examine progression in male and female world-record performances is limited. This commentary is intended to provide a forum to discuss issues underlying gender differences in sport performance from a global perspective and acknowledge the influence of cultural and sociopolitical factors that continue to ultimately affect female performance.

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James G. Hay and John A. Miller Jr.

The purposes of this study were (a) to describe the techniques used by elite female athletes during the transition from approach to takeoff in the long jump and (b) to determine which characteristics were significantly related to the officially recorded distance of the jump. The subjects were the 12 finalists in the Women's Long Jump at the 1984 Olympic Games. A motion-picture camera placed with its optical axis at right angles to the runway was used to record the performances of the subjects. Means and standard deviations of the variables identified in a theoretical model and correlations between these variables and the distance of the jump were computed. Significant correlations revealed that the less the downward velocity at touchdown at the end of the third-last stride, and the less this velocity is changed by the vertical forces transmitted via the supporting foot, and the shorter the duration of the next flight phase, the greater the distance of the jump.