Field Theory by Hadyn Green

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Field Theory: Olympic Eye Candy

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    __just watched Asafa Powell in his first heat and not only is he fast, he's totally smooth.

    His head didn't come up until 30m in. Too cool.__

    Can someone explain this to me please? Hadyn? Is there some cost-benefit formula here, or is it always faster to stay underwater as long as possible

    I'm pretty sure it's slower ... not least because you'd first have to exit the stadium and go over to the swimming venue :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Also: What's on Michael Phelps' iPod?

    Lil Wayne, apparently.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    I'm pretty sure it's slower ... not least because you'd first have to exit the stadium and go over to the swimming venue :-)

    Ahah, classic - and there's another reason why I'm not writing the sports blog.

    I thought we were talking about swimming (it was the Phelps discussion) and the fact they seem to place a lot of emphasis these days on who stays under the longest after they jump in... although 30m did seem pretty extreme. My question still stands if anyone knows the answer :)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Can someone explain this to me please? Hadyn? Is there some cost-benefit formula here, or is it always faster to stay underwater as long as possible

    I know that in the swimming they've only been allowed to swim for 15m underwater since 1998. It creates much less turbulent flow.

    Underwater running. Now there's an Olympic sport with novelty value.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    My best guess is that you're using momentum from the dive to carry you along and, on the turns, you can push yourself under your own wake, thus avoiding turbulent water/an oncoming wave.

    However, Jake Does Science is a hilarious sport in its own right around these parts, based on the kind of reasoning from first principles so beloved by the classical scientists and thoroughly overturned in the late-17th Century. It all makes sense, until it turns out to be completely wrong. So take it with a grain of salt.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Lucy: yes, from the POV of perfect development I think the men's gymnasts are hard to beat. Strength, co-ordination, grace, they have it all.

    The only thing is, because they need to have the best possible power-to-weight ratio, they tend to be on the short side.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    PS: etymologically, the gymnasts SHOULD be naked.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    Oh come on Mark, you can also have tiny little pre-adolescent stick-figures with faked birth certificates. Geez, fussy.

    Gymnasts are indeed tiny and very young. Pound for pound, pubescent girls are the strongest of our species, in terms of strength to weight ratio.

    They may freak you out, but believe me there is a real pleasure in being that strong and that agile, even if it does diminish as soon as you develop and once that happens your chance at that sport is over. There's a reason Nadia Comaneci was 13 when she won gold.

    I have to say, from an attracted-to-men perspective the men's gymnastics (esp. the all-round competition) does provide some fine viewing.

    Except they're tiny . It's a sport where being big is a huge disadvantage. For male beauty giive me a sprinter, circa 1936. Jesse Owens seemed a nice size and shape, or perhaps Michaelangelo's David, though not in marble.

    I'm not surprised, dear," says Professor Janice Thompson, head of Bristol University's department of exercise, nutrition and health sciences, when, belching quietly, I return to my desk. "There's no way you should be able to eat what Michael Phelps eats. This is not even a normal athlete. I would not recommend this kind of diet for even a fit and serious competitor in, say, a 10km road race. This man is in a very, very different place to the rest of us. He's 6ft 4in and 192lb of pure joy. From a female perspective, obviously. Though I probably shouldn't say that."

    Being strong and agile does feel nice, but the other great pleasure about being an athlete - no matter how much you eat you never put on weight - the greater ratio of muscle to fat, the higher number of calories burned at a resting rate. Just sitting still an athlete can burn more calories than an unfit person engaged in light activity.

    I remember seeing an interview with Sarah Ulmer and Hamish Carter and they were talking about the sheer freakish volume of food they consumed in the course of a day, their friends who were not athletic could not understand how they could eat that much. When I was a gymnast I wouldn't eat much before a competition (porridge and a couple pieces of fruit is plenty) but after either competition or a few hours of practice I could certainly demolish eggs benedict, hash browns, bacon, buttermilk waffles with fried bananas, strawberries and yoghurt and several orange juices and coffees. That's at 13 and about 35 kg.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    I thought we were talking about swimming (it was the Phelps discussion) and the fact they seem to place a lot of emphasis these days on who stays under the longest after they jump in... although 30m did seem pretty extreme. My question still stands if anyone knows the answer :)

    Heh, sorry that was a pretty random insert.

    It is all about the waves on the surface (gonna post about that more tomorrow after some reading). When you turn effectively you are turning into the water that you were pushing in the same direction as you.

    Remember when you were a kid doing that "whirlpool" thing in the school pool? Same thing. Except that for swimmers the effect is only on the surface. Under the surface the water is traveling in the opposite direction, so it helps to be there.

    I'm fighting the urge to draw diagrams

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    the gymnasts SHOULD be naked

    The point Dyan makes above is a very good reason why they shouldn't!

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    the gymnasts SHOULD be naked

    The point Dyan makes above is a very good reason why they shouldn't!

    Which point? That the girls are pubescent, that the men are tiny or that they all eat a lot?

    From the point of view of the athletes, the male gymnasts anyway, that pommel horse is a reason to keep their tights on.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Gymnasts are indeed tiny and very young. Pound for pound, pubescent girls are the strongest of our species, in terms of strength to weight ratio.

    I think that qualifies as a Killer Fact!

    The Chinese gymnasts seem atypical, though: most of the women are pocket rockets: five-footers with huge shoulders and narrow waists. That looks even more unusual.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    The Chinese gymnasts seem atypical, though: most of the women are pocket rockets: five-footers with huge shoulders and narrow waists. That looks even more unusual.

    That's a pretty typical gymnast's body - big shoulders, tiny waist, and the girls who do the floor routine have very solid thighs too - the bar and beam girls can be less powerful through the legs. Though I would doubt any of the Chinese team break the 5 foot mark - most of them are far from full grown and I would guess are around 4'10".

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    They may freak you out, but believe me there is a real pleasure in being that strong and that agile, even if it does diminish as soon as you develop and once that happens your chance at that sport is over. There's a reason Nadia Comaneci was 13 when she won gold.

    I think it's less that they're freaky and more that, you know, children are having their prepubescent period artifically extended by stressing their body in order to win glory and fame for their country, which looks awful purty on TV (I'm currently watching the individual women's all-round final - dude, those are some sweet moves) but is not necessarily the greatest thing for the girls concerned. And given how much training and control of diet has to occur from a very early age in order to reach the Olympic level, there's the question of how much choice they have in the whole thing. It's possible to think that Olympic female gymnasts are amazing and skilled athletes and still be "freaked out" - or, more correctly, disturbed - by what happens to get them to that point.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Dyan, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know the age of competition in gymnastics has been raised to 16 by the IOC. Hence the complaints by the American team that the Chinese appear 'underage'.

    That still doesn't mean they're not pushing them to the limit before this age of course, but that could equally be said for swimming, or a host of sports where intensive training from the pre-teens is a requisite to compete at the highest levels.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    And given how much training and control of diet has to occur from a very early age in order to reach the Olympic level, there's the question of how much choice they have in the whole thing. It's possible to think that Olympic female gymnasts are amazing and skilled athletes and still be "freaked out" - or, more correctly, disturbed - by what happens to get them to that point.

    You're so right! At the Olympic level what they do is insane - I saw Nadia Comaneci interviewed as an adult and she recounted some of the horrors - they were chosen very young (3 or 4) on the basis of their ability to ignore physical pain on the playground, and once they were picked they were given steriod injections (and told they were vitamins). Steroids given in childhood definitely stunt growth, as does excessive training. Coffee and tea don't help either. I really wish I hadn't drunk either in childhood, I'd probably have been 2" taller.

    But I've seen people train excessively and still grow to be giants - one girl in my ballet class who was destined to be a star, she had so much promise, grew to a whopping 5'11" despite an insane amount of training. Her towering height spelled the end of any dancing career.

    I may have been about 4'10" and 35kg at 13 when I was a competitive gymnast (provincial Canada, not the Olympics) but I did grow to a normal size ( 5'6") and gymnastics was not my only activity - I did track and field (sprinting) quite a bit of ballet and lived to skateboard and ski and ride cross-country BMX (they were called Mustang or Panther bikes in those days, but same idea). I have discovered snowboarding in middle age, and like the rest of my family, have never outgrown my desire to go outside and play. No one in my family ever weighed much more than a cat but we all eat a lot.

    Having said that, I agree that gymnastics is an insane sport, not just in terms of stunting growth but also how bad the injuries can be. It's quite a bit more dangerous than it looks, as I know only too well.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    Dyan, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know the age of competition in gymnastics has been raised to 16 by the IOC. Hence the complaints by the American team that the Chinese appear 'underage'.

    I'm not sure - I haven't heard that but it would make sense from a social point of view, if not an athletic one. I'm about the same age as Nadia Comaneci (over 50) and n our era we were taught to believe once you started to develop your career was over - at 16 you were pretty much finished. I quit at 15, but taught gymnastics (off and on) well into my 30s and would even do the odd routine when no one was looking. Fortunately my husband is a physiotherapist...

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    16 is the lower age limit for the Olympics in gymnastics. However, i just heard the commentators talk about a 14yr old Romanian gymnast, so now I'm not sure...

    There are 14yr old synchronised divers though, boys and girls.

    I've just watched (LIVE via the internets!) the men's individual pursuit qualifiers. A Frenchman was leading an Aussie over the first eight laps and then the Aussie came back and was clearly ahead when the commentators said: "looks like the Australian might just be making a slight comeback..."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    The thing about the underage Chinese gymnasts is that it is possible they're just really slow developers. There are more than a billion people in China. If there's only one kid in a million who has aptitude, physique, AND a freaky hormonal wotsit, there will be more of those kids in China than any other country in the world, and a totalitarian approach to talent spotting means they will be found. Eg see the Chinese basketballers. You can't tell me the average Chinese person is very tall, but sheer population size means there are far more people on the extremes of the bell curve than anywhere else.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    16 is the lower age limit for the Olympics in gymnastics. However, i just heard the commentators talk about a 14yr old Romanian gymnast, so now I'm not sure...

    I was sure I heard a commentator during the women's final today refer to one of the competitors as a fifteen-year-old, so it's all pretty confusing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • JohnAmiria,

    Here's all you need to know about relative ages, from Wiki.
    It's quite interesting ...

    Age controversies in gymnastics

    An excerpt:

    Supporters of the age restrictions have pointed out that it has encouraged older gymnasts to remain in the sport. The average age of an international gymnast was 18.10 years in 2005. In contrast, in 1994, before the new age requirements, it was 16.49, and in 1989, gymnasts who had reached the age of 17 were already often considered to be of retirement age.

    Opponents of the rule have countered that by barring younger gymnasts from top level meets, they are denying them valuable competitive experience. They have also argued that junior gymnasts perform and are scored under the same Code of Points as the seniors, perform the same skills, and are thus not avoiding the physical impact of training and performing high-level skills. It is also argued that the current Code of Points, with its increased requirements for difficult skills, is more suited to younger and lighter athletes, and puts older athletes at greater risk of injury.

    The bold highlights are mine. I think it's tosh. It's the same argument used to explain away child labourers in 3rd world countries.

    As Wiki explain, many countries have lied about gymnast ages in order to win medals. Where does it end? If a 10 year old can do the perfect backflip do we lower the age limit so a 10 year old can 'get experience' at the Olympics? Where to after that? I thought the Olympics were the pinnacle of an athlete's career?

    hither and yon • Since Aug 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    <quote>Eg see the Chinese basketballers. You can't tell me the average Chinese person is very tall, but sheer population size means there are far more people on the extremes of the bell curve than anywhere else.</qutoe>

    It depends where in China you're talking - my Aunt's family (she was born in Vancouver herself) was from Canton and Aunt Valerie is 5'8" - over 5'9" when she was young (she's 75 or so) - that's very tall for that generation, but typical of the Chinese from her province.
    But generally, yes, Chinese are quite small and that 16 year old kid who won gold looked 16 to me.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • JohnAmiria,

    here's some eye candy:

    hither and yon • Since Aug 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    I was sure I heard a commentator during the women's final today refer to one of the competitors as a fifteen-year-old, so it's all pretty confusing.

    The requirement is that they must minimally turn 16 within the calender year of competition, therefore there are some competitors who will, but have not yet, turn 16 this year.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Can't be flicking over to the Olympics at the right times - caught the shot-putters last night, my goodness, big brawny, neckless wonders they are, too. The rowers are quite pervable, but they should be shirtless...

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

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