University researchers study sports, athletes, and the Olympic Games

Winter Olympics 2018, alpine ski, Team Canada, UOIT, ACE Climate Wind TunnelAs the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang draw to a close this weekend, many Ontario university researchers have either had a hand in Team Canada’s performance, or have conducted research on the psychology of an athlete and the Olympic Games themselves.

Months before the athletes headed to South Korea, the ACE Climate Wind Tunnel at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology was being used to help perfect the perfect racing suit for the Canadian alpine ski team. The tunnel, capable of simulating extreme weather with wind speeds up to 300 km/h and temperatures down to -40 degrees, allowed the athletes to test their suit and positioning in order to achieve the most aerodynamic position.

The future of the Olympic Games

Studying trends and patterns of the Games themselves has researchers making predictions and providing commentary on their future. A team of researchers at the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute found that by 2050, many prior Winter Games locations may be too warm to host the Games again. These cities include Sochi, Vancouver, and Oslo because of the planet’s warming climate. The team used climate data from previous Winter Games and applied climate change models for the study.

In the nearer future, squash will no longer be considered an Olympic sport in the 2020 Tokyo Games, while skateboarding, climbing, and surfing will be included. The International Olympic Committee is looking at competitive video gaming as an option for the 2024 Games in Paris. Michael Heine, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, explains why and how sports are included in the Olympic Games.

The mind and body of an athlete

video gaming, Olympic Games, Western University, Michael Heine, International Centre for Olympic StudiesRyerson University media researcher Nicole W. Forrester pens a column in The Conversation about how Olympians train their brains to be mentally tough. Forrester draws from her own experience as an athlete, as well as the research in the field. Although it varies from athlete to athlete, she finds common strategies used by many Olympians such as goal-setting, self-talk, imagery, and arousal control.

Separately, sports scientists at York University and UOIT have long studied the birthday bias and why many athletes have early birthdays. When children are younger, the difference in size between those born earlier in the year versus those born later is more apparent, causing many coaches to pick the older and bigger kids for teams. This usually occurs where speed and strength are a factor such as swimming, hockey, and soccer. The birthday bias is less present in football, and absent in sports such as gymnastics and figure skating.

The researchers also found more of a bias in men’s sports than women’s. The reason is most likely due to the fact that girls finish growing earlier than boys.

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