Thursday, July 9, 2009

Carving Time for a Ski Slalom Analysis

Based in southern California, it's sometimes easy to focus our attention solely on sports that take place in the yearlong sunshine we are lucky to enjoy. However, there are some amazing locations not too far from here that offer top-notch conditions for winter sport lovers. And with the 2010 Winter Olympics just around the corner (Feb 2010 in Vancouver), we'd like to take a closer look at what some athletes are doing to prepare for their events.

The Ski Slalom event is a test of an athlete's ability to control their speed and agility, as they navigate their way around flexible poles/flags placed along a downhill course. Lowering one's center of mass through a turn allows the skier to change his/her direction quickly, while keeping their balance (and reducing their wind resistance). As it's a timed event, the skier needs to come out of each turn quickly, and immediately make their way towards the next flag. Using proper form as they enter and come out of each turn is critical to recording a competitive time.

Professional athletes and their coaches use video to closely examine the athlete's form throughout a race. An option featured in some software packages allows the user to create freeze-frame shots at multiple points during the video, allowing us to see how the athletes positioned themselves at critical points of an event. This option was featured heavily during the gymnastics and diving portions of the 2008 Summer Olympics (note: although it's used by almost all professional and college teams, many software packages offer this feature at a price that's affordable to most weekend warriors). The video below shows how the feature can be applied to a skier weaving their way through a slalom course.

As you can see, the skier gets quite low to the ground as he rounds each turn. Freezing all these shots along the entire race gives us the opportunity to look at his form as he progresses through the course. Playing the video and seeing these frames frozen and overlaid on the video is also very entertaining, besides being useful for detailed analysis by the coach and athlete.

If you have any questions on this feature, the software it's available through, or how it can be used to analyze a sporting event, just let us know and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

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