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By the numbers

Chantal Petitclerc and her former coach Peter Erickson show off their accreditation

She’s one of her generation’s greatest athletes, and she recently completed one of the biggest turns in her career. Chantal Petitclerc was coaching the British team at the 2012 Paralympics, and success was once again her middle name. The coaching stint comes after being a star competitor at the Games over two decades.

She’s kind enough here to share “My Games by the Numbers” with Good4sports.

Mes jeux en chiffres!


20 : Number of events by the 4 athletes I was working with, including rounds and finals. My job was to surpervise and coordinate times for transport, warm up, be there from start to finish, including coffees before, and talks after!  This also explains the number of coffees.


11 : Gold Medal count for the track & Field GB team.  They only had 2 golds in at the last games.  Back from Beijing UKA hired my former coach Peter Erickson as the paralympic head coach. 4 years later the team has its best performance ever. Coincidence? Don’t think so!!


: Medals won by the group I was supervising. 5 of them gold. More than some countries


59 : Lattes I drank during the games. First one at 7 with Team Leader Peter Erickson, just before leaving for the stadium with the athletes. We were never really back to our rooms until 11h00. Starting with day 5, the lattes also included and extra shot of espresso.


3 : Moments brought tears to my eyes, but will keep them for me!


: blisters covering Shelly Woods’ hands after her silver medal marathon performance. After a tough week struggling on the track in spite of being in great shape, she gave everything and made it to the podium for the last event. Brilliant!


5h30 : average dayly sleep I got during the games. Still recovering.


81 000 : Spectators in the stadium. Passionate and loud. A full stadium for morning semi-final sessions at the paralympics, thats something I had never seen before!


1889 : number of texts I send and received on my iphone during the games..


128 : Number of time I had to show my acreditation to security control.


15;82 : new world record in the 100m for Liu Wong, who beat my world record of 15;91 from Bejing.  A little pinch, sure, but thats what sport is all about, pushing limits.


Stopped counting : number of times I was asked :  «  so, you miss it? » My answer; not a single bit. A clear sign that it is indeed a privilege to retire when having acomplished all my goals.


Stopped counting : number of times I was asked : «  is it weird, wearing the GB uniform? » My answer : Not a single bit! They are an amazing, positive team who trusted me, and allowed me to live one of the most amazing experiences. I will never forget the generosity of all coaches who gave me time, good advice, shared their knowledge, or just gave me a smile when we passed on the way back and to the stadium.  Thank you all!




Moderate exercise in mid-life helps

More evidence that we need to get active in mid-life if we want to protect the old ticker.

The BBC is reporting on a study published in the journal Circulation that looked at inflammatory markers in the blood of participants over a ten-year period. You can read the full story here.

This is how it closes:

Dr Mark Hamer, of University College London, who led the research, said: “We should be encouraging more people to get active – for example, walking instead of taking the bus. You can gain health benefits from moderate activity at any time in your life.”

Maureen Talbot of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the work, said: “Donning your gardening gloves or picking up a paint brush can still go a long way to help look after your heart health, as exercise can have a big impact on how well your heart ages.

“This research highlights the positive impact changing your exercise habits can have on the future of your heart health – and that it’s never too late to re-energise your life.

“However it’s important not to wait until you retire to get off the couch, as being active for life is a great way to keep your heart healthy.”

A Mini Olympic Celebration

Gotta hand it to the Brits after London 2012. And, as I am a big fan of the Mini, I feel it’s OK to post something, that for the first time on this blog, is an actual advertisement!

Breaking the 9 second barrier?

Don’t bet on Prince Harry ever breaking the 9 second barrier. But how about Usain Bolt?

With the 2012 London Olympics set to go, many are wondering just how fast Usain Bolt and the sprinters will be able to go in the 100 metres. That showcase event is easily the most watched at the Games. It wasn’t that long ago that people asked whether humans could break the 10 second barrier (unaided by performance enhancing drugs)

At the BBC’s Future webpage, Ed Yong is asking whether it’s possible to predict whether the 9 second barrier will ever be broken:

That’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer, and ploughing through the record books is of little help. “People have played with the statistical data so much and made so many predictions. I don’t think people who work on mechanics take them very seriously,” says John Hutchinson, who studies how animals move at the Royal Veterinary College in London, UK.

The problem is that the progression of sprinting records is characterised by tortoise-like lulls and hare-like… well… sprints. People are getting faster, but in an unpredictable way. From 1991 to 2007, eight athletes chipped 0.16 seconds off the record. Bolt did the same in just over one year. Before 2008, mathematician Reza Noubary calculated that “the ultimate time for [the] 100 meter dash is 9.44 seconds.” Following Bolt’s Beijing performance, he told Wired that the prediction “would probably go down a little bit”.

John Barrow from the University of Cambridge – another mathematician – has identified three ways in which Bolt could improve his speed: being quicker off the mark; running with a stronger tailwind; and running at higher altitudes where thinner air would exert less drag upon him. These tricks may work, but they’re also somewhat unsatisfying. We really want to know whether flexing muscles and bending joints could send a sprinter over the finish line in 9 seconds, without relying on environmental providence.

To answer that, we have to look at the physics of a sprinting leg. And that means running headfirst into a wall of ignorance. “It’s tougher to get a handle on sprinting mechanics than on feats of strength or endurance,” says Peter Weyand from Southern Methodist University, who has been studying the science of running for decades. By comparison, Weyand says that we can tweak a cyclist’s weight, position and aerodynamic shape, and predict how that will affect their performance in the Tour de France. “We know down to 1%, or maybe even smaller, what sort of performance bumps you’ll get,” he says. In sprinting, it’s a black hole. You don’t have those sorts of predictive relationships.”

Yong concludes that people placing ceilings on human performance  are ill-informed.  For now, I’m waiting for someone to break the 9.5 barrier.

Olympian Poetry

The Parnassus poetry festival in London, one of the arts and culture events organized for the 2012 Olympics, recently brought together poets from around the world.

One of them is Senegal’s Didier Awadi. This is a video of his work called “Dans Mon Revê”

Poetry used to be an essential part of the Olympic Games, going back to ancient Greece, as Tony Perrottet describes in his Sunday New York Times essay.

“In ancient Greece, literary events were an indispensable part of athletic festivals, where fully clothed writers could be as popular with the crowd as the buff athletes who strutted about in the nude, gleaming with olive oil. Spectators packing the sanctuary of Zeus sought perfection in both body and mind. Champion athletes commissioned great poets like Pindar to compose their victory odes, which were sung at lavish banquets by choruses of boys. (The refined cultural ambience could put contemporary opening ceremonies, with their parade of pop stars, to shame.) Philosophers and historians introduced cutting-edge work, while lesser-known poets set up stalls or orated from soapboxes.

Criticism could be meted out brutally: when the Sicilian dictator Dionysius presented subpar poems in 384 B.C., disgusted sports fans beat him up and trashed his tent. At other Greek athletic festivals, like those at Delphi, dedicated to Apollo, the god of poetry and music, verse recital was featured as a competitive event, along with contests for the lyre and choral dancing.”

Poetry was actually part of the Olympic competition in the first half of the 20th century with medals being given to poems inspired by sport, Perrottet writes. But the validity of the competition and its ability to attract the top poets was discredited by 1948, and the competition was dropped.

Gatherings like the Olympics  are on such a massive scale that they will always inspire people from all walks of life, so re-inventing ways to showcase other forms of human accomplishment like poetry is a worthwhile endeavor.

I particularly like Perrottet ‘s closing.

“Of course, the ephemeral nature of worldly glory has long been a ripe subject for poets. For this year’s games, a panel of literary experts decided to adorn London’s Olympic Village with a line from Tennyson’s “Ulysses” to sum up the gritty determination of the ancient wanderer: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Perhaps more nuanced are the words of Achilles pondering the vagaries of celebrity in Homer’s “Iliad”: “I too shall lie in the dust when I am dead, but now let me win noble renown.” Or as Emily Dickinson more cheerily put it: “Fame is a bee. / It has a song — / It has a sting — / Ah, too, it has a wing.”

Go jogging-and eat carrots – to boost longevity once you hit 70!

Another study has found that exercise – like jogging, walking, or swimming- and consuming vegetables could increase your lifespan once you hit 70. The study, published by Emily J. Nicklett, et al, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, followed more than 700 women in their 70’s in the Pittsburgh area, over a 5-year period.

“The present study found that physical activity and total serum carotenoids are strong and independent predictors of survival in older women living in the community. This offers preliminary support for the hypothesis that a diet high in fruit and vegetables, as reflected by high total serum carotenoid concentrations, combined with high physical activity would each demonstrate a protective association with 5-year mortality independent of one another. Therefore, exercise and nutrition should both be analyzed when assessing the health and projected life span of older women. Programs and policies to promote longevity should include interventions to improve nutrition and physical activity in older adults.”

The most physically active study participants -in other words, the ones who exercised the most – were nearly twice as likely to survive over the 5-year period as were the sedentary ones.

The authors conclude that even though they’ve shown that exercise and carotenoid intake will prolong life,

“…further work is required to validate and extend these findings in other populations so that appropriate groups can be targeted for interventions that incorporate diet and physical activity. The implications of this work are that interventions should combine improvements in diet and physical activity—rather than examine changes in isolation—to improve survival in older populations.”

Swim around the world

Rare is the time when I post simply to promote another website, but this one is consistent with the very purpose of my blog! I’ve discovered the Swimmers Guide, a site for lap swimmers who want to find a decent public pool wherever they travel in the world. This is how they explain their existence:

“In our many years of traveling, we were never able to find a single, half-decent, half-way reliable resource for finding swimming pools away from home. (Or near home, either, for that matter.) So we’ve set out to be something of a Google for swimming pools. In our spare time, we search the ‘Net for information about places to swim around the world, catalog what we find, add it to the database, and share it with the world.

Taking whatever we can find on the ‘Net, together with what other swimmers have sent us, we’ve compiled the most comprehensive swimming pool-finding resource ever created. Does that sound boastful? In a word: “Yes”; but it’s also absolutely true!”

So far, they’ve built a list of more than 20-thousand pools in 10-thousand plus cities — in 68 countries. What a fantastic way to use the evolving information highway.