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Researcher Predicts Which Olympic Events Will Break Records

With so many Olympic sports being played out at the same time, it becomes really hard for an avid sports fan to decide what to watch and what not. Specifically, all of us want to watch any record-breaking performances live but there’s no way to tell when and where a record will be broken. Science may offer a solution to this problem now.


Steve Haake, who is the director of the Center of Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, has had a long career of using scientific principle in sports. He has researched extensively to discern the trends in different sports.

Haake relies entirely on objective data; it can be any of the metrics used within a sport to calculate a player’s performance. Based on the data, it can be predicted whether or not there is a possibility of a record-breaking performance in that particular event. Haake’s research goes back a long way and he has charted many different trends such as sudden data-peaks as well as gradual changes in the performance of the players.

The peaks, Haake elaborates, are usually when technology suddenly improves the performance of players in a specific sport. For instance, the LZR Racer swimsuits which were used in Olympics 2008 were able to bolster the performance of every single swimmer who used it. Naturally, this resulted in a lot of records being broken and new ones forged.

Haake also has a way of applying a uniform measure to multiple sports. He created a performance improvement index (PII) which actually measures the amount of useful work that is being used in a performance. When considering different sports, Haake has to define the work done in different ways but PII is still able to give hard numbers to compare with each other, numbers which are fairly accurate.

It’s based on these comparisons and the data sketched over many years through which Haake can tell you which sports are going to be interesting this year. For instance, according to Haake’s data, the top runners in the 100-meter sprint are very close to each other. In fact, Usain Bolt’s record is barely secure and there is a high probability that one of the other top players may be able to smash right through it.

Haake explains it this way, “You’ve got 25 people there that are all performing exceptionally well, and you’ve got your top eight that are just fantastic. Any one of them on the day could win it, and a few of them could set records.”

However, in longer races; such as 400 meter, 800 meter and 1500 meter races; there is nearly no chance of a new record. Even in swimming events, there are going to be no record-breaking performances since LZR swimsuits have been banned this year. This means that the swimming records of 2008 are fairly secure and swimmers will take some years to catch up with them.

You can catch more details about the analysis in  Physics World.

Source: Physics World

Courtesy: Pop Sci

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