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'Top secret' technology to help US swimmers trim times at Beijing Olympics
Date:8/8/2008

Troy, N.Y. Milliseconds can mean the difference between triumph and defeat in the world of Olympic sports, leading more trainers and athletes to look toward technology as a tool to get an edge on the competition.

A fluids mechanics professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., is using experimental flow measurement techniques to help American swimmers sharpen their strokes, shave seconds from their lap times, and race toward a gold medal in Beijing.

Professor Timothy Wei, head of Rensselaer's Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering and acting dean of the university's School of Engineering, helped develop top-secret, state-of-the-art equipment and mathematical techniques that USA Swimming coaches have been using to help train Olympians.

"This is the real thing," Wei said. "We have the physical system, we're taking flow measurements of actual swimmers, and we're getting more information than anyone has ever had before about swimming and how the swimmer interacts with the water. And so far, these techniques have contributed to some very significant improvements in the lap times of Olympic swimmers."

In years past, swimming coaches have used computer modeling and simulation to hone the techniques of athletes. But Wei developed state-of-the-art water flow diagnostic technologies, modifying and combining force measurement tools developed for aerospace research with a video-based flow measurement technique known as Digital Particle Image Velocimetry (DPIV), in order to create a robust training tool that reports the performance of a swimmer in real-time.

"This project moved the swimming world beyond the observational into scientific fact," said USA Swimming Coach Sean Hutchison. "The knowledge gained gave me the foundation for which every technical stroke change in preparation for the Beijing Olympics was based."

You can see one of the videos, of 2008 Olympian Megan Jendrick, h
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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