By means of advanced sensor tests, researchers can measure exactly where on a track a skier slows down or speeds up. This allows their performance to be analysed and training sessions adjusted. The goal is to win more medals during World Championships.
At the shooting range at Östersund's ski stadium, Emma Höglund and Nicolina Lindqvist are putting on their skis and getting ready. They are going to ski three short laps and shoot three times each, twice prone and once standing. Their progress will be monitored the entire time.
As Emma Höglund picks up her rifle she points to where the small black sensor with its flashing blue light is attached with duct tape. It is attached to the shoulder strap and when the rifle is slung across her back the little gadget on her shoulder can barely be seen. Both girls are studying at the Ski University, specialising in biathlon, and they have agreed to be test participants during the sensor tests.
"It's fun to be part of this," says Emma before they head out on their first lap.
Nicolina Lindqvist and Emma Höglund on their way to test the sensors.
The girls skate away fast, towards the first slope. The sensors that they have fixed to their rifles allow the team of researchers to follow them in real-time as they disappear from view.
A way to further develop training
Today the aim is mainly to see whether the quality of the GPS system is worse when Emma Höglund and Nicolina Lindqvist ski in the woodlands, but over time the coaches will be able to use the data collected from the sensors to evaluate performance in a totally new way. Where on the track do they ski fastest? Where do they lose speed? Where do the best skiers travel faster than others and how can training be adapted to make up for these differences?
While Emma and Nicolina are out on the track, the team of researchers walk around the shooting range to keep warm. They have filmed the girls accelerating away and are now waiting for them to complete the first lap. Matej Supej, professor at the University of Ljubljana and case manager for the research project, pulls his hat further down over his ears while he waits.
"The main idea is that this will help skiers at an elite level to adapt their training sessions," he says.
Matej Supej, case manager.
Monitoring the skiers with sensors is part of the "Internet of Sports" project, which is financed by Mid Sweden University in collaboration with the Östersund City Council and the EU's Regional Fund. The initiative for the "Internet of Sports" comes from HC Holmberg, professor at the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre, and the aim is to develop innovative sports technology with commercial potential.
Use for recreational exercisers
If this technical sensor is something skiing coaches want and find useful, and if it improves elite performance in the World Championships, the researchers see great potential in putting it on the market.
"Today, many recreational athletes are gadget nerds and they look up to the elite and want the same things that they have. It motivates people to exercise and we see this as something positive," says Matej Supej.
In addition to biathletes, the sensors have also been tested on cross-country and downhill skiers. With the downhill skiers, the researchers measured speed between the gates, among other things, to be able to see exactly where a skier loses energy.
Besides Matej Supej the team also includes a newly employed performance engineer from Italy, researchers from Switzerland and Marko Laaksonen, associate professor at the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre. The "Internet of Sports" project will conclude in 2020 and will by then have been established in Åre and Östersund.
Emma Höglund at the shooting range.