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Olympics: Getting them to the podium
Now that we are into week two of the London Summer Games, it is clear that the Olympic motto — Citius, Altius, Fortius — still rings true, with records being smashed in events ranging from swimming and basketball to weightlifting and archery. While it’s hard to imagine how humans can continue to get “faster, higher, stronger” with each Olympics, athletes and coaches alike attribute much of their success to cutting-edge research.
Whether they are working directly with high-performance athletes or analyzing the issues surrounding the Olympic Games, researchers across Canada are helping to improve our country’s medal standings and advancing our understanding of this key global sporting event.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is playing its role in supporting the Games by supporting some of these researchers. Here are a few examples:
Ross Andersen, McGill University: At the McGill Center for Physical Activity and Health Promotion, Ross Andersen is investigating how much exercise is required to promote long term weight control. He has expertise in sports and nutrition and in assessing elite athletes.
Mickael Begon, Université de Montréal: Biomechanics professor Mickael Begon works with the Canadian synchronized swimming team, analyzing their movements to optimize their routines.
Stuart Phillips, McMaster University: Stuart Phillips researches how protein in a diet can impact different types of athletes — from aerobic athletes, such as swimmers, to strength-based athletes, such as weightlifters.
Jim Rupert, The University of British Columbia: Molecular geneticist Jim Rupert is looking into the genetics of performance and how genetic variation may affect doping control tests. He is an expert in the area of “gene doping,” the use of cells, genes or genetic elements to enhance muscle mass and athletic performance, and the control of it.
Robert Schinke, Laurentian University: As Canada Research Chair in Multicultural Sport and Physical Activity, Robert Schinke focuses on sports psychology, particularly for the significant number of elite athletes who have immigrated to this country and represent Canada at the Olympics.
Mark Tarnopolsky, McMaster University: Mark Tarnopolsky’s lab studies the physiology and molecular biology of human muscle function in rehabilitation. He is an expert on the effects of blood doping on Olympic athletes.
CFI-funded research has also impacted past Olympic Games:
Training like an Olympian: Find out how Darren Warburton’s high-intensity interval training approach is being used by many hard-core athletes, from Olympians to weekend warriors, to get fit fast.
The STEALTH advantage: See how Gérard Lachapelle’s Position, Location and Navigation (PLAN) Group at the University of Calgary developed a GPS device that helped the Canadian Alpine Ski Team prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Rock the boat: Read how a University of Western Ontario researcher developed an ingenious analytical device to help rowers better keep their balance.
And look ahead for research that holds promise for Canadian Olympians in Sochi, Rio and beyond:
Joe Misius, Camosun College: Joe Misius received funding in May 2012 through the CFI’s new College-Industry Innovation Fund for research infrastructure that will be used to integrate sensors into specialized clothing to monitor heart rate, speed, core body temperature, blood pressure, gait analysis, balance, speech recognition and real-time motion analysis. The work, which will be conducted at the Sport Innovation Centre (SPIN) at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence at Camosun, will build on research already being conducted with a number of companies. For example, Camosun researchers have been working with Vancouver-based FAB Biosyn Systems Inc. to prepare the company’s portable wireless sensory systems, which accurately record biomechanical movements, for use in high performance Olympic and Paralympic sport and physiotherapy applications.