Among all the tents at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Village there is one sparking particular interest among athletes and their coaches: the Performance Accelerator.
The igloo-style booth is a first-time partnership between the University of Lausanne, the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (INSEP) in Paris, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Researchers test athletes’ bodies in various ways to produce a detailed physical analysis, and assess how they might improve performance. Two types of tests are used. The first is “bodylat” or range of motion, in which osteopathy experts from Lausanne measure the body’s overall mobility.
In 20 minutes the bodylat test highlights the weak points of an athlete’s physique - where joints are too stiff, or whether any muscle has reduced mobility. Next the INSEP experts evaluate the athletes through three exercises - overhead squat, stepping and push-ups. After the tests, the athletes are given exercises designed to address any weaknesses.
Race walker Simona Bertini (ITA) said after her visit: “They measured my limbs’ mobility at several different angles, and then they made me do some exercises to test how I move. They tested my balance and my strength, then they showed me where I am more flexible or less. “They showed me my weak points where I can stretch the least, where it’s more difficult for me to do some particular movements, and the angles that I couldn't reach well", and added “They showed me some exercises to do at home that can be useful to improve those difficult movements and weak points, like my abductors’ mobility and my back. I should improve those.”
Italian 200m runner Dalia Kaddari said: “Now I know I need to improve my feet posture, as from the tests it came out that my feet are too weak. “I need to do a lot of exercise with a rubber band, tying both my knees or ankles. Improving how my ankles work means my whole run gets better.”
Another who visited the booth, cyclist Arthur Kluckers (LUX), said: “I should improve my shoulders’ flexibility and my hips’ strength, because on the bike you are stretched out on the handlebars for hours and hours.”
His cycling teammate, Nicolas Kess (LUX), said: “Keeping that position for such a long time can be tough for our shoulders. The tests said my shoulders are pretty much as bad as they can get. But it’s good to know that through those exercises I can work on some parts of my body to get fitter and improve my performance on and off the bike.”
Coordinator Thibault de Rivaz, of the University of Lausanne, said: “We’ve seen that smaller nations are especially interested in our tests and exercises".
“Some of them can’t afford specialised trainers or coaches that can highlight possible problems, and they don’t know how to work on those issues.”
Swimmer Karen Arngeirsdottir (ISL) said: “They told me there’s a big room for improvement. I found out that I need to work on my hips, as I don’t have a very good balance. I also have to work on my core, it has to be much better.
“My competition went OK, but I could have done better (she finished last in her 100m breaststroke heat at the Natatorium on Tuesday). Maybe after these exercises I can win gold at the next Olympic Games.”