UD prof uses computer simulations to help Olympic skaters

By Tom Lehman 11:55pm, February 19, 2014 - Updated 9:25am, February 20, 2014
VIDEO: James Richards, a professor of kinesiology and applied physiology, talks about his computer simulations for Olympic skaters. Footage courtesy of NBC 10.
Some U.S. skaters participating in the Winter Olypmics have received advice on how to tighten their performances from a University of Delaware professor and his computer simulations.

WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.

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Over the last several years, dozens of skaters, including current Olympic participants Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner, have paid a visit to Professor James Richards, who specializes in kinesiology and applied physiology.

Using sensors placed on a skaters' body and motion-capture cameras, Richards was able to translate motion on the ice into a computer animation.

The system offers athletes an opportunity to see how they can make adjustments to spin faster and harder during their routines.

"The goal is to get as tight as possible around your primary axis of rotation," he told NBC 10. "There's any number of compensations they can perform that take them off axis and every time they get off axis it slows them down."

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The animations help skaters make adjustments so they can spin harder and faster, but Richards said that pushing the human body can also increase risk.

"That's what they have to overcome, they're getting way past their safety zone," he said.

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