Ski team aided by BSU research

Biomechanics Lab director studied skiers' performances, strengths.

Research conducted at Ball State has greatly improved the performance of U.S. Ski Team members, who now have their sights set on garnering an Olympic gold.

Robert Newton, the director of the Biomechanics Laboratory, created software designed to separate and hone the specific strength qualities of the skiers to build leg strength and improve their training regimens.

"The Biomechanics Lab specializes in resistance training, athletic development and injury prevention," Newton said. "Our background is in strength, and we've been testing the athletes for that."

Each athlete had to shoulder a barbell and squat to a crouching position in a controlled manner, Newton said. The test is designed to determine the skier's eccentric leg strength, which is vital to change direction in downhill skiing.

"In the turns of downhill skiing, the G-forces are so high," Newton said. "The skiers have to have a lot of eccentric strength."

The tests allowed researchers to separate the strength qualities of the athletes in such aspects as vertical jump, explosiveness, force tolerance and weightlifting.

Benefits of the testing are being reaped in full, Newton said.

"Several skiers are in the top 25 now in jumping, and several are doing very well in the downhill," he said.

The research was catalyzed when the U.S. Ski Team noticed the technology of European ski teams was at the "cutting edge" in recent competitions, Newton said.

As the host country for this year's Games, U.S. ski officials and coaches naturally wanted to implement similar, if not better, technology to make a strong showing, according to Newton.

The research was funded by a U.S. Olympic Committee grant received in 2000. Testing began in mid-2000 and continued until the end of 2001.

"With the approach the athletes have had to this, you'll see some of the best performances ever by U.S. Ski," Newton said.

"They have better training and coaching, and are using some new secretive equipment. Changes have been made to skis and boots, and they are sporting new wind-tunnel apparel."

Though Ball State researchers tested the athletes and honed their training programs in Park City, Utah, Newton passed up the opportunity to be on-site at the Olympics.

"I'll probably go out there when it all settles down," he said.

Three U.S. skiers were primed to win Olympic medals, according to the "Sports Illustrated" medal picks. Bode Miller came back from the 15th position in the final round to take the silver in the men's combined slalom, as the magazine had predicted.

"Sports Illustrated" also picked Daron Rahlves to win the bronze in the men's Super G - combined slalom and downhill - competition and Kristina Koznick to take the bronze in the women's slalom. These events continue today and Saturday.


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...