Feb. 1, 2002 MUNCIE, Ind. - Members of the U.S. Ski team have a better shot at a gold medal during next month's Winter Olympics thanks to research done at Ball State University.
Robert Newton, director of the Biomechanics Laboratory, developed software designed to improve the leg strength of American skiers preparing for the competition Feb. 8-24 at Salt Lake City.
"At the last Winter Olympics, American alpine skiers had a tough time competing against the Europeans but application of 'state of the art' exercise science over the past three years has resulted in several of our athletes breaking into the top 10 in the world rankings," he said. "The ski team came to us because we focus on strength and explosiveness in our research. It was a natural fit."
Newton and the staff of the Biomechanics Laboratory, a division of Ball State's Human Performance Laboratory, began testing athletes in mid-2000 to determine their eccentric leg strength, which is the ability of the body to control the high forces experienced during the turns in ski racing.
"The test consisted of placing a barbell on an athlete's shoulders, then measuring his or her ability to lower the body into a crouched position in a controlled manner," Newton said. "In the long downhill runs, athletes must hold the crouched position in the turns while under enormous g-forces and traveling at speeds of 70 miles per hour.
"The test results enabled us to develop software that improves a person's ability to control additional weight while skiing. The software was critical in developing equipment that mimics various ski runs."
Newton and other Ball State researchers were closely involved in an ongoing program of testing athletes in Park City, Utah, which fine-tuned their training programs for the Winter Olympics.
Newton's work is a result of a joint funding application to the U.S. Olympic Committee by the Human Performance Lab and the United States Ski and Snowboarding Association (USSA) made in 2000.
USSA is the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding.
While Newton played a major role in developing this cutting edge research for a group of Olympic hopefuls, he prefers to watch the Winter Games from the comfort of his home.
"I am an avid skier but I think I'll wait until the games are over to visit the slopes," he said. "It won't be as crowded for someone as slow as me."
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