To slide faster, you better have a wind tunnel. To ski farther, get fit in a research lab. And, if you take a bad spill, you can get an up-close analysis of the injury with a state of the art scanner.
These days the old wooden skis and metal bobsleds are as obsolete as the black and white they were filmed in. It’s a carbon-fiber, computerized Olympics now — measured in thousandths of a second. And, if you’re not high-tech, you’re not on the podium.
“All of the athletes are so close it’s just making the best a little bit better,” explains Lance Williams of the United States Olympic Committee Sports Science Center.
The U.S.O.C. has a “war room” of sorts, where you can get analysis of Team USA’s performance.
“We get a channel for every event that’s out there,” Williams says. That allows the U.S.O.C. to keep an electronic eye on the competition anda close look at how American athletes can gain and edge.
One system there, called “dartfish”, can even match-up images of two different skaters, from two differentraces, so coaches can compare and correct mistakes. "It's kind of a microscope into sport performance," says Williams.
But what about curling? Can there be anything high-tech about something as utilitarian as a broom? Isn’t it just a stick with a bunch of bristles on the end?
It wasn’t that long ago that old-fashioned straw brooms were used to smooth the ice to help the stones slide faster.
Now the British team admits it has practicing with a “secret weapon” broom. No details have been given. No photographs have been allowed. There are reports of a thermometer on top. There’s also a rumor there’s a sensor to detect how hard you’re sweeping and even an antenna to transmit the data.
NBC sports commentators say the new broom is all the buzz.
The battle for the high-tech edge is being fought in labs with lasers and computers. But in Torino, when the rocks slam together and the skates hit the ice, the high-tech wizardry will shift to the background — and it’s all up to the athletes.