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The champions behind the champions

02 July 2013

Press Office

University of Central Lancashire demonstrates the science behind sporting success with the help of Olympic star Helen Clitheroe

Olympic athlete Helen Clitheroe has been helping a team from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to look at the science behind sporting success.

A team of UCLan researchers are showcasing their work at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition this week, investigating the relationship between competitive conditions and body movement, and called on Olympic long-distance runner Helen Clitheroe to demonstrate.

One of the UCLan studies seeks to identify the ways in which champions can be engineered, proving that in high-stake plays, athletes consciously consider skilled movement. In low pressure situations, movements are completed almost automatically.

By using the Xsens Motion Capture Suit, which uses a system of sensors built into a suit to create a high level 3D image of the precise movements of the wearer, the project revealed that critical adjustments in movement made by athletes can mean the difference between gold and silver.

“By training their subconscious to perform under high levels of competitive pressure, athletes in any sport stand a much better chance of taking home the gold."

Howie Carson, a UCLan PhD student from Finchley, London, who worked on the study along with Professor Dave Collins and Professor Jim Richards, said: "The science behind sporting success is fascinating. We wanted to study the human mechanics of sport and how athletes can refine their skills and concentrate their efforts where it really counts.

"Britain came out on top at last year's Olympics and some of our young sporting stars have the potential to do great things. We hope this study shows that in sport, it really is a case of made not born. By training their subconscious to perform under high levels of competitive pressure, athletes in any sport stand a much better chance of taking home the gold."