Afkarnews -Scientists, engineers, and technology gurus make crucial contributions to the Olympic Games, bringing fresh insight to coaches and athletes at each new round of the international competition. Knowledge gained in the four years since the Beijing Summer Games, from swimming to the discus throw, will help guide performance strategies in London later this month.

" Sport is a laboratory for science, " said Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University in Durham, N. C. " Knowing the principles empowers the athletes and coaches, showing them how they should train and what techniques to use. Everyone is interested in knowing the secret to outstanding performance, and the secret is science. "

High - tech race for swimmers
Equipment does not play nearly as important a role in the summer Olympics as it does in winter, where bobsleds and skates, skis and luges reign. But it is crucial to one of the Games ' biggest crowd - pleasers: swimming.

The hydrodynamics wizards at Speedo, part of the Pentland Group, have jettisoned the " dermal denticles " they put on swimsuits in ۲۰۰۰, tiny hydrofoils that were meant to emulate shark skin. This year marks the debut of the " Fastskin۳ " system: a combination of cap, goggles and suit that streamlines swimmers into the closest thing to a barracuda this side of the ocean.

If swimmers do not break Olympic or world records, it will not be for lack of effort from the engineers at Myrtha Pools, a division of A&T Europe S. p. a. They have designed new features to prevent waves at the water ' s surface and currents below from increasing drag on the swimmers, which slows their speed. Seven Myrtha pools installed in the Aquatics Center promise the fastest water ever.

For sports scientists focused on bodies, not gear, the work can range from analyzing the speed and strength components of the long jump to the most efficient execution of a back ۲-۱ / ۲ somersault dive with two and a half twists off the ۱۰ - meter board.

Biomechanics, the study of the forces exerted on and by a body, has shown that takeoff speed is the single greatest determinant of distance in the long jump and triple jump: increasing takeoff speed by ۱۰ percent should increase distance ۱۰ percent. But strength also matters, since the greater the force with which the jumper pushes down on the ground, the farther she should fly.

Athletes will be advised to train differently, says Adrian Lees, emeritus professor at Liverpool John Moores University and a long - time adviser to British track and field, depending on whether speed or strength is their greater asset.

Biomechanics has also shown that the height cleared in the pole vault is proportional to the takeoff speed squared, causing vaulters to hone their sprinting skills as much as their technique. And it has found that a relay sprinter will do no better from a crouching start. Taking this to heart, France ' s men ' s ۴x۱۰۰ meter relay team starts from a stand.

But science does not always find its way into practice: Other relay teams retain the crouch, physics be damned.

"There are psychological factors," sighed biomechanics expert Aki Salo of the University of Bath, an adviser to British track and field. "If elite athletes feel they get a better start from the crouch, it is difficult to get them to change their mind."