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LeRoy W. Alaways, Sean P. Mish and Mont Hubbard

Pitched-baseball trajectories were measured in three dimensions during competitions at the 1996 Summer Olympic games using two high-speed video cameras and standard DLT techniques. A dynamic model of baseball flight including aerodynamic drag and Magnus lift forces was used to simulate trajectories. This simulation together with the measured trajectory position data constituted the components of an estimation scheme to determine 8 of the 9 release conditions (3 components each of velocity, position, and angular velocity) as well as the mean drag coefficient CD and terminal conditions at home plate. The average pitch loses 5% of its initial velocity during flight. The dependence of estimated drag coefficient on Reynolds number hints at the possibility of the drag crisis occurring in pitched baseballs. Such data may be used to quantify a pitcher’s performance (including fastball speed and amount of curve-ball break) and its improvement or degradation over time. It may also be used to understand the effects of release parameters on baseball trajectories.

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Robert J. Gregor, William C. Whiting and Raymond W. McCoy

The purpose of this investigation was to record the performance of all male and female competitors in the discus throw during the 1984 Olympic Games. The final rounds of the men's and women's discus throw were filmed at 120 fps using two high-speed 16mm LoCam cameras. Height, angle, and velocity of the discus and the thrower's trunk angle were measured at release in the best three throws of the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalists in both the men's and women's division. Little difference was observed between men and women regarding the angle and velocity of release, and results were comparable with those from previous studies on elite performers. But differences were observed in foot position at release and height of release between men and women. It appeared the men had more vertical thrust in taking them off the ground prior to release and, even relative to their greater body height, released the discus with a higher arm position. The three-dimensional nature of this event precludes any further interpretation at this time.

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Federico Pizzuto, Matteo Bonato, Gialunca Vernillo, Antonio La Torre and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose:

To analyze how many finalists of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships (WJCs) in the middle- and long-distance track events had dropped out from high-level competitions.

Methods:

Starting from 2002, the 8 male and the 8 female finalists in the middle- and long-distance events of 6 editions of the WJC were followed until 2015 to evaluate how many missed the IAAF rankings for 2 consecutive years starting from the year after WJC participation. For those still competing at elite level, their careers were monitored.

Results:

In 2015, 61% of the 2002, 54.8% of the 2004, 48.3% of the 2006, 37.5% of the 2008, 26.2% of the 2010, and 29% of the 2012 WJC finalists were not present in the IAAF rankings. Of the 368 athletes considered, 75 (20.4%) were able to achieve the IAAF top 10 in 2.4 ± 2.2 y. There is evidence of relationships between dropout and gender (P = .040), WJC edition (P = .000), and nationality (P = .010) and between the possibility to achieve the IAAF top 10 and dropout (P = .000), continent (P = .001), relative age effect (P = .000), and quartile of birth (P = .050).

Conclusions:

Even if 23 of the finalists won a medal at the Olympic Games or at the World Championships, it is still not clear if participation at the WJC is a prerequisite to success at a senior level.

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William A. Sands, Cindy Slater, Jeni R. McNeal, Steven Ross Murray and Michael H. Stone

The lay press, scientists, and physicians appear to believe that gymnasts are continually getting smaller and that their “smallness” is a health risk.

Purpose:

To assess the historical changes in the size and age of the US women’s Olympic gymnastics teams from 1956 to 2008.

Methods:

The official records from the US Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics of Olympic team members were assessed at 2 levels: individual height, mass, age, and body-mass index (BMI) and the team performance scores and rankings. Fourteen Olympic teams with a total of 106 team members, including the alternates, were included. Trend analyses were conducted using linear and polynomial models.

Results:

Simple linear correlations indicated that since 1956, height, mass, age, BMI, and team Olympic rank have been declining. However, second-order polynomial curve fits indicated that in the last 4 Olympic Games the members of the US women’s gymnastics teams have been getting larger.

Conclusion:

Women Olympic gymnasts were getting smaller through approximately the 1980s and early 1990s. Since then the size of these gymnasts has increased. The minimum-age rule modifications may have played a role in athlete size changes along with a shift from the near dominance of the former communist Eastern Bloc.

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Stephen Seiler

Almost half of the record 98 events being held at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games were either not held 20 years ago at Lillehammer or have been substantially modified. The Olympics as a global sports event are not stationary but must adapt and evolve in response to changing demands, just as the remarkable athletes who are competing do. While the Winter Olympics program has steadily grown since Chamonix in 1924, the rate of development has greatly accelerated in the last 20 years. Three factors seem to be instrumental. First, the Winter Olympics program has become more gender balanced. Female hockey teams are battling for gold, and this year women will compete in ski jumping for the first time. Most Winter Olympics sports have equal numbers of events for men and women today, although female participation still lags somewhat behind. Second, many traditional events have been modified by sport-governing bodies toward a more “TV friendly” format. Time-trial starts have been replaced by mass or group starts. “Sprint” and team events have been added to spice up traditional sports like cross-country skiing and speed skating. Finally “extreme” sports like half-pipe and ski-cross have crossed over from the X Games to the Olympics, with some arguing that the Olympics need these popular sports more than the X Games sports need the Olympics. All of these changes create new research questions for sport scientists who are also willing to adapt and evolve.

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Paavo V. Komi and Antti Mero

A two-dimensional film analysis was performed on five men and six women finalists in the javelin throw of the Los Angeles Olympic Games of 1984. In addition to the great interindividual variation in the measured kinematic and kinetic parameters, the results indicated that in men the winner had the highest release velocity of javelin (29.12 m × s−1), and that a significant (p < .01) relationship could be obtained between the release velocity and throwing distance. Despite great variation in throwing distance in women (55.88 m - 69.56 m) the release velocities were in relatively small range (20.73 m × s−1 - 23.62 m × s−1). High impact loading was specific to the last foot contact on the ground. It was characterized by a short duration (0.032 s) and high velocity knee flexion (12.66 ± 2.11 and 12.27 ± 3.81 rad × s−1, respectively, for men and women). The respective knee extension velocities averaged 5.80 ± 2.00 and 7.60 + 5.17 rad × s−1. Despite the fact that a small number of analyzed world-class throws revealed only some biomechanical differences between good and poorer performance, the results can be used to identify some new criteria for successful performance in javelin throw.

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Patrick Kennedy, Peter Brown, Somadeepti N. Chengalur and Richard C. Nelson

The performance of male and female swimmers (N = 397) competing in the preliminary heats of the four 100-meter swimming events during the Seoul Olympic Games was videotaped and later analyzed to determine stroke rate (SR) and stroke length (SL). These data were combined with age, height, and final time (FT) values for statistical analyses which included the relationships among these variables, comparison of male and female performance, and assessment of differences in the four events. The results revealed the following ranges of correlations between SR and SL (rs from −0.65 to −0.90), SL and FT (rs from −0.32 to −0.80), height and SL (0.19 to 0.58), and age and FT (-0.16 to −.051). The factor of SL was identified as the dominant feature of successful swimming performance. The men were older and taller, had longer stroke lengths and higher stroke rates (two of four events), and swam faster than the women. The differences in final times across the four events (freestyle fastest, breaststroke slowest) were due to specific combinations of SR and SL, with neither parameter being consistently dominant.

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Ralph Mann and John Herman

Selected kinematic variables in the performance of the Gold and Silver medalists and the eighth-place finisher in the women's 100-meter hurdles final at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games were investigated. Cinematographic records were obtained for all track hurdling events at the Games, with the 100-meter hurdle performers singled out for initial analysis. In this race, sagittal view filming records (100 fps) were collected at the 9th hurdle of the performance. Computer generated analysis variables included both direct performance variables (body velocity, support time, etc.) and body kinematics (upper leg position, lower leg velocity, etc.) that have previously been utilized in the analysis of elite athlete hurdlers. The difference in place finish was related to the performance variables body horizontal velocity (direct), vertical velocity (indirect), and support time (indirect). The critical body kinematics variables related to success included upper and lower leg velocity during support into and off the hurdle (direct), relative horizontal foot position (to the body) at touchdown into and off the hurdle (indirect), and relative horizontal foot velocity (to the body) at touchdown into the hurdle.

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Stephen Seiler

An Olympic Games is a measurable test of a nation´s sporting power. Medal counts are the object of intense scrutiny after every Olympiad. Most countries celebrate any medal with national glee, since 60% of competing countries will win none. In 2012, 10% of the competing countries won 75% of all medals. Despite this concentration among a few countries, more countries are winning more medals now than 20 years ago, thanks in part to athlete-support and -development programs arising around the globe. Small strong sporting countries like Norway are typified by fairly large variation in medal results from Olympiad to Olympiad and a high concentration of results in a few sports. These are important factors to consider when evaluating national performance and interpreting the medal count. Medal conversion, podium placements relative to top 8 placements, may provide a measure of the competitiveness of athlete-support programs in this international zero sum game where the cost of winning Olympic gold keeps rising whether measured in dollars or human capital.

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Iñigo Mujika

Detailed accounts of the training programs followed by today’s elite triathletes are lacking in the sport-science literature. This study reports on the training program of a world-class female triathlete preparing to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Over 50 wk, she performed 796 sessions (303 swim, 194 bike, 254 run, 45 strength training), ie, 16 ± 4 sessions/wk (mean ± SD). Swim, bike, and run training volumes were, respectively, 1230 km (25 ± 8 km/wk), 427 h (9 ± 3 h/wk), and 250 h (5 ± 2 h/wk). Training tasks were categorized and prescribed based on heart-rate values and/or speeds and power outputs associated with different blood lactate concentrations. Training performed at intensities below her individual lactate threshold (ILT), between the ILT and the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA), and above the OBLA for swim were 74% ± 6%, 16% ± 2%, 10% ± 2%; bike 88% ± 3%, 10% ± 1%, 2.1% ± 0.2%; and run 85% ± 2%, 8.0% ± 0.3%, 6.7% ± 0.3%. Training organization was adapted to the busy competition calendar (18 events, of which 8 were Olympic-distance triathlons) and continuously responded to emerging information. Training volumes were 35–80% higher than those previously reported for elite male and female triathletes, but training intensity and tapering strategies successfully followed recommended best practice for endurance athletes. This triathlete placed 7th in London 2012, and her world ranking improved from 14th to 8th at the end of 2012.