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British athletes set to benefit from cutting edge technology on Road to Rio

23rd August 2013

Source: UK Sport

World class engineering will continue to support Great Britain’s elite athletes following the announcement today that BAE Systems will continue to act as UK Sport’s Official Research and Innovation Partner on the ‘Road to Rio’.

An £800k agreement means both summer and winter sports and athletes will have access to cutting-edge technology throughout the build-up to Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 as they seek to apply scientific innovation to their training, recovery, injury prevention and in competition. This is the second phase of a partnership which has already benefited more than 20 different Olympic and Paralympic sports and 140 athletes ranging from cycling to skeleton.

To mark the announcement, a revolutionary new racing wheel, which can improve the acceleration of Great Britain’s wheelchair racers by up to 20 per cent, was unveiled by London 2012 Paralympic silver medalist, Shelly Woods today. Developed at BAE Systems’ R&D centre in Bristol, in partnership with Draft, who design and manufacture active user and sports wheelchairs and high performance sports specialist Angle Consultancy, the new advanced composite wheel is stronger, faster and lighter than designs used by racers previously.

Although very light, the wheel is three times stiffer than previous designs and its rigidity reduces a force known as ‘toe-in’ – where the wheel bends inwards – caused by wheelchair athletes’ characteristic ‘punching’ motion on their push stroke. The increased lateral stiffness means the new wheels no longer bend inwards, reducing friction between them and the track, improving speed and acceleration. 

Shelly Woods said: “Paralympic sport is growing year on year in strength and depth, and being able to make use of the best in British engineering, thanks to this partnership between BAE Systems and UK Sport, can help keep British athletes at the forefront of this fiercely competitive environment.”

“Having access to this kind of expertise gives us a huge boost and motivates me to train hard and continue to work on my racing technique every day, safe in the knowledge I have wonderful support around me.”

BAE Systems engineers will continue to work with UK Sport, and their science, medicine and technology arm, the English Institute of Sport, to support British sports and athletes ahead of major competitions including the forthcoming Winter Games. Preparatory work is already underway, with wind-tunnel technology and expertise applied to help improve the racing speed of the GB Bobsleigh Team.

The Company, which has access to the expertise of 18,000 engineers, has also begun investigating a simulator to enable GB Taekwondo athletes to develop new skills while significantly reducing the risk of injury through repetitive impact.  This follows work with GB Taekwondo in refining their scoring techniques in the build-up to London, where their athletes won a gold and a bronze medal.

Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson said: “The difference between success and failure in sport can often come down to the smallest of margins. The cutting edge technology from BAE Systems contributed to British athletes’ incredible success in the run-up to and during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I am pleased that BAE Systems’ partnership with UK Sport will continue to support our best athletes, with Sochi and Rio on the horizon.” 

Simon Howison, Engineering Projects Director at BAE Systems, said: “This partnership will continue to help us demonstrate how engineering can be applied in many different areas and encourage more young people to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths. We’re hugely proud to work with British athletes and help support incremental gains in performance that might make a real difference to the nation’s sporting success.”

Liz Nicholl, Chief Executive of UK Sport, added: “Having access to BAE Systems’ engineering capabilities has significantly increased our technical ability by helping our athletes and their coaches seek out those winning margins, both in training and in competition.

“The incredible work to come out of the first phase of the partnership is just the beginning, and as we aim to win even more medals in Rio in 2016, we are delighted to be continuing to work closely with BAE Systems in helping our athletes to operate at the cutting edge of their sport.”

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