When milliseconds and millimetres really matter
Header image: Spirig v.s. Norden © Handout/Getty Images
The London 2012 women’s triathlon gave us one of the closest ever finishes in a long distance event. High speed photography was called into action to prove that Nicola Spirig’s torso had crossed the line a mere 20 millimetres ahead of Lisa Norden’s torso after 2 hours of racing neck and neck. But the race to the top step of the podium had not actually begun two hours earlier and 55 kilometres back along the course. For top athletes their journeys begin years beforehand and after hundreds or thousands of kilometres of training. Every millisecond and millimetre along the way is part of that journey to success.
This summer Focal Point Positioning had the great pleasure to meet and begin working with one of the UK’s most impressive and most inspirational athletes. For those who follow Paralympic sport, Richard Whitehead MBE will already be a familiar name. For those who do not, you should really look into his achievements. Richard holds the world records for athletes with a double amputation in both the full and half marathon, but is also the world record holder for 200m and was the winner of the Paralympic Gold for this distance in both 2012 and 2016.
Richard still strives for more and is now focussing his attention on Tokyo 2020. Like any top athlete he is keen to ensure that he gets as much as he can from every training session between now and then, learns as much as he can and improves all the time.
When we first met Richard and spoke with him about his training schedules and training tools we heard an all too familiar story of low confidence in existing sports fitness trackers, of GPS traces in the wrong places, of training sessions being recorded with distances and split times that were known to be wrong when compared to the trusty coach-with-a-stop-watch-and-a-keen-eye option. We heard of Richard’s desire for more data, for an understanding of all aspects of his sessions, even for an understanding of whether he could do things better between his sprints and his sessions, whether he was wasting energy during training and at races in ways he hadn’t currently acknowledged or could metricate, and so on.
We had met a man with a clear vision and desire to see beyond what his current tools could provide. Someone who would study measurements over milliseconds and millimetres to understand every practise start, every practise lap, even every warm-up exercise in the changing room in the finest detail.
Handily, Richard had met the right team for the task.
We have begun working to get Richard the tools he wants, and to try to help him to see further into his own training sessions than has been possible before. Focal Point Positioning’s D-Tail technology is a perfect tool for Richard to learn as much as possible from his sessions. Traditionally, sprinters may work with only a few stopwatch split times from each lap, perhaps 2 or 3 timings of key events. Our D-Tail software can provide Richard with 400 measurements per second of the position and pose of any body part that he wishes to study move through space on his sprints, at the millimetre level.
The first glimpse of our work with Richard is visible in our new promo video for D-Tail, and we will continue to help him towards his goal of reaching the top step of the podium in Tokyo 2020. D-Tail can be there with him every step of the way, capturing every millisecond and millimetre of that journey.