Tech secrets of top athletes uncovered in Sports Lab show at Sheffield Weston Park

By Stuart Huggett | 06 January 2011
a computerised image showing a figure in bob sleigh position with aerodynamic lines
Computational fluid dynamics of a skeleton bobsleigh© Sheffield Hallam University
Exhibition: Sports Lab: The Science Behind the Medals, Weston Park, Sheffield, January 29 - November 20 2011

In the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics, Sheffield Museums’ Weston Park is exploring the past and future of sports science.

Sports Lab: The Science Behind the Medals is an interactive, family exhibition mixing the latest technological and physiological sports research with scientific and sporting memorabilia.

The exhibition will later tour to the V&A Museum of Childhood, London in time for the Olympics next year, but in the meantime Sheffield is the focus for this lively investigation into the genetic advantages of our top athletes, exploring how natural talent and training has been combined with technological innovation in order to enhance their performance.

Fittingly, the study of sports science has its roots in ancient Greece, through the work of physicians involved in the training regimes of the early Olympic athletes. Sports Lab charts the parallel development of sporting competitions and physiological science from the original Greek Olympic, through to the games’ revival in Athens 1896 and on into the 21st century.

Historical memorabilia in the exhibition includes the early motion capture photographs of Eadweard Muybridge, and Sheffield’s sporting heritage is honoured with the inclusion of items such as an original 1857 rulebook from the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC.

From the modern game, the exhibition includes an official 2010 World Cup ball: Adidas’ controversial Jabulani, developed in conjunction with the Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University.

There are plenty of interactive exhibits for all ages to try, produced with the assistance of Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sports Engineering Research (CSER), which carries out research for organisations including UK Sport and the International Tennis Federation.

There's a virtual 1km bike race around Sheffield, accompanied by displays of racing equipment from Penny Farthing cycles to modern racing bikes, racing wheelchairs and running blades.

In Nerves of Steel, visitors can experience an athlete’s eye view of the skeleton bobsled race, and there are Beat the Clock reaction tests, an electronic dance floor and a digital Design an Athlete program exploring which physical traits suit particular sporting activities.
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