The science behind speed skating


My name is Kjeld Nuis. I’m a long distance skater and my goal is to win an Olympic medal. During my first year on the team, I didn’t get to participate in the Olympics. This year, I hope to fully make up for that. When Red Bull asked me how they can help to improve my sports performance I involved my coach Jac Orie. We questioned ourselves; can they hep us with something like that where it’s never been done before? He suggested a video analysis to investigate my technique from different angles. We hope to see things we have never seen before. Jac Orie is kind of like our ice rink scientist. He is a human movement scientist and approaches things differently. In skating, it’s obviously important that you have power and speed. But all these strengths must come together at a single moment to create the ideal forward movement. And finding that precise moment is very difficult. And then he came up with the idea of a video analysis. We shot video footage but with limited results After a conversation with Red Bull, they wanted to help us take it a step further. To shoot images that were really useful to us, ad were far beyond what a commercial team and normal video footage could offer us. In skating it’s almost impossible to view all positions simultaneously. There are generally only one of two camera positions. This great system consists of a steel arch fitted with 60 cameras that were all shot at the same instance. This means that we can view skaters from angles that we’ve never seen before and in 60 different positions. We also strung a cable along the entire straight of the rink and used this to shoot unique footage from above and diagonally above. Once a cable with a camera runs along the rink and a skater can be viewed from above, it becomes possible to determine the direction of his body and his skates during forward movement. I hope that Jac can find things that I’m not doing 100% correctly. If everything is okay, that’s great, but I can learn from mistakes and improve them. The final goal is to become as quick as possible. I’m sure that this could make the difference between winning a medal or not. Sometimes, very small factors can make the difference, especially if they haven’t been thoroughly analyzed. I also want to find things that I simply haven’t known before. If you’ve never seen things from a certain perspective, you have to question everything you come across. Today, we’ll focus on three points. When the front end of one foot is near the heel of the other as you push forward, then we’ll look at your vertical angle in relation to the ice, to make sure that you’re not leaning to the side. I want to check the angle of your knee at the precise moment you push forward. And the direction you follow in relation to the ice. Right now, your toe is at your heel and we’ve checked how you place your foot in relation to the straight line. You actually do that really well. If the angle was below ten degrees, you’d be overcompensating and holding yourself back, which would slow you down. Do you remember what we did in Salt Lake City last year? When Wouter showed us that you began to lean forward, this is still around 106 degrees. That’s great, but here you’re getting a little tired as you go under the camera arch. You’ll see that you’re leaning forward a little bit. You can see that here too; you’re feeling tired and your body’s leaning forward. Do you see that? It’s a 5 degree difference. As you push forward, your body follows. You should maintain momentum as you push instead of allowing your body to follow your leg. You always want to achieve the maximum results possible and be the fastest and the best. Because if you want to make a difference, you have to start somewhere. Sometimes, very small factors can make the difference, and I think that this will help us improve even more.

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