BMW Helps U.S. Olympians Prepare For London

If a successful Olympic athlete manages to land a nice endorsement deal after the games, he or she might be able to buy a nice new BMW.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

However, before U.S. athletes even get to the Olympics, the German automaker will be helping competitors prep for the London event. BMW announced that they teamed with the United States Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field to develop the first Olympic technology project, a velocity measurement system for use by long jumpers.

According to BMW, the system “captures an athlete in motion and provides immediate performance data to coaches and athletes in training scenarios.” BMW came up with the tech in response to a USA Track & Field request because the training system they had weren’t relaying results fast enough. The system is now installed and in use at the Olympic Training Center at Chula Vista, Calif. being used now by Olympic hopefuls in the lead up to the Team Trials in Eugene, Ore.
Media was allowed to witness the system in action while Bryan Clay (2008 decathlon Olympic gold medalist) tested the system during the development process.
It took the BMW Technology Office in Mountain View, Calif. about a year to put a system together that captures an athlete in motion and calculates performance metrics for coaches to use in training long jumpers.
It all works by measuring and providing real-time analysis of three parameters in the execution of a long jump – horizontal approach velocity, vertical take-off velocity and take-off angle.
To capture and analyze the athlete’s motion, the system uses an advanced stereo-vision technology and machine vision software like that used in BMW’s research vehicles to improve automotive active safety systems.

Clay said the precision of the BMW system is important for an athlete at his level.
“As a decathlete, my reality in centimeters and thousandths of a second are the difference between an Olympic gold medal and no medal,” Clay said. “The feedback this tool is able to provide immediately, during a practice as opposed to days afterward, will enable me to make minor adjustments to my jumps that could equate to significant performance gains.”
“With fewer than three months to go until the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field in Eugene, Ore., USA Track & Field will have the opportunity to utilize the velocity measurement system in the lead up to these races, the London 2012 Olympic Games and beyond.”

During the press event, USATF Chief of Sport Performance Benita Fitzgerald Mosley was on the record stressing how essential the “right now,” real time data feedback was to the process of preparing an athlete. Essentially, a coach needs to know right then and there what input to give his athlete.
“The amount of real-time data presented by this tool will help coaches and sports scientists to make better decisions and maximize the efficacy of athlete training sessions,” Fitzgerald Mosley said. “This is of tremendous benefit to our athletes and coaches at the Training Center. We’re grateful to BMW for the level of commitment they’ve demonstrated to our partnership and our individual athletes, and we look forward to utilizing the tool for years to come.”
It would seem this is only the beginning for combining car testing science with human performance. There’s no official word yet if BMW will be developing other training systems for different kinds of athletes, but American athletes will have to be careful not to rub it into their British hosts that a German firm helped the U.S. bring home the gold.


Photo Credit: Nuno Andre and Nash Herrington