Innovative Olympic Training Techniques: Lolo Jones

The U.S. hurdler uses high-speed cameras to analyze her every move

Lolo Jones     Photo: Stacy Revere/Red Bull

To help U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones capture the gold medal she was supposed to win in Beijing, sponsor Red Bull designed a diagnostic tool that requires Jones to attach 39 sensors the size of Ping-Pong balls to various parts of her body, then run while being recorded by a high-speed video camera. Using a proprietary computer program, technicians produce a 3D image of Jones that gives her coach exact data, such as where her center of mass is located during foot strikes. Sixty of Jones’s teammates have already benefited from software developed by Ralph Mann, a former Olympic hurdler and biomechanics Ph.D. By plugging an athlete’s measurements—everything from height to toe size—into the computer, coaches generate a stick-figure model depicting the athlete’s ideal footfalls and body angles. That model is then laid over video of the athlete, whose form is tweaked accordingly. Using the program, sprinter Shalonda Solomon improved her time in the 200 meters by .32 seconds and beat out heavily favored teammate Carmelita Jeter to win the USA Outdoor Championships last year. “When Solomon first started using the program, she had C-minus mechanics,” says Mann. “Now she has A-minus mechanics.”

Women's 100-meter hurdles: August 7, 4 p.m. EDT

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