Low-altitude Olympic venues lessen chances for speedskating world records, pose challenges

Feb 10, 2014 by Tracy James

Speedskating fans should expect to see few new world records at the Winter Games. Despite improvements in technology and the training levels of the athletes, speedskating competitors in Sochi, Russia, will face off at sea level, where air resistance is enough to slow times compared to races held at higher altitudes.

"All the in speedskating were set at Olympics or events that were held at altitude, like Salt Lake City or Calgary, where there is less air resistance slowing the skaters down," said Robert Chapman, whose research at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington includes performance issues at altitude. "Usually, we think that altitude makes you slower, and that is true for distance running, but not for 'high velocity' events like speedskating. At lower altitudes, air resistance is a greater factor than the lower oxygen delivery to the muscles."

The air resistance also affects athletes in skill sports, requiring competitors in sports such as figuring skating, ski jumping and snowboarding to retool highly technical moves to accommodate more or less for . This year some events, such as figureskating, hockey and speedskating, will take place at , while others, such as the biathlon and skiing events, will take place at higher altitudes.

"After thousands upon thousands of moves, certain motor patterns become ingrained for athletes," Chapman said. "A different altitude will change the feedback they get from balance and proprioception. It's something that needs to be incorporated into their practices."

Explore further: For altitude training, a narrow window for success

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

For altitude training, a narrow window for success

Dec 12, 2013

Researchers and athletes have long known that living at altitude holds the potential to improve athletic performance. Many competitive endurance athletes follow a "Live High – Train Low" training regimen, in which they ...

Image: NASA satellite eyes Sochi Olympic sites

Feb 07, 2014

It's not often that the Winter Olympic Games come with an ocean view, but that's what we are getting this year at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Sochi is the warmest city ever to host the winter games, ...

Winter Olympics Science Notes: Skate Blades

Feb 26, 2010

The skates matter. The figure skaters competing in the women's long program tonight at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics would never be able to complete the jumps and spins needed to win gold if they wore ...

Study shows first link between altitude and concussion

Dec 09, 2013

A new study shows that high school athletes playing at higher altitudes suffer fewer concussions than those closer to sea-level, a phenomenon attributed to physiological changes in the brain causing it to fit more tightly ...

Recommended for you

UC Santa Barbara receives $65M from Munger

9 hours ago

A physics institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has received a $65 million donation—the largest single gift in the university's history.

Prophet's ancient seal provides insights from antiquity

15 hours ago

When a personal artifact of a religious leader is discovered nearly 1,700 years after its use, the object provides invaluable historical insights. Zsuzsanna Gulacsi, professor of Comparative Cultural Studies, ...

Billionaires' $10m gift to Yale stirs debate in China

19 hours ago

A Chinese billionaire couple's $10 million gift to Yale University sparked controversy among the country's Internet users Thursday, with some arguing that the money would be better spent on schools in China.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.