[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Lolo Jones, a former LSU hurdler, is garnering a lot of attention heading into this week’s Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. No, this attention does not come from her road to redemption after falling short of Olympic Gold in ’08, no, it does not come from her beautifully sculpted body, and no it does not come because she has a cool name. Lolo Jones just fell short of Olympic Gold in ’08 after she was in first heading into the last hurdle. Lolo clipped the last hurdle, dropping her from 1st to 7th. That’s a good story in and of itself, but Lolo Jones, in an attempt to get whatever advantage she can find over the new crop of US hurdlers, has trained in the most high tech way. She is training as if it was a video game. The 100 meter hurdles is one of the shortest races in track so any advantage is a huge advantage. Therefore, Lolo Jones decided to jump aboard the Red Bull Project X. Red Bull Project X also built Shaun White a private snowboarding half pipe for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
So what does this technology even do? Lolo Jones runs through practice races while being flanked on either side by dozens of cameras that detect her every movement. Over the course of this mock 100 meter hurdle race, thousands of data points are collected which help analysts pick out little problems in form and inefficiency. For instance, Lolo’s coach realized she didn’t get her hips up high enough in the blocks, a mistake that could cost her energy that need not be used when starting the race. Also, her coach, Dennis Shaver, realized that Lolo swung her leg out every so slightly while clearing each hurdle. Fixing this could shave a few hundredths of a second off a race. Does all of this technology really work? Do 40 Vicon motion cameras and high-speed phantom detectors actually help an athlete at the Olympic level? After all, these things are used to make video games. Obviously some old school training is needed but Lolo weighed in on the process in a Sports Illustrated article about this Project X:
“Every hurdle is a chance to separate you from the field or make you fall back. If you can find a small thing that might take off a thousandth of a second, over 10 hurdles, that time adds up…. It’s all about the tiniest details.”
People can scoff all they want at this stuff but truly when an athlete gets to such a high level, it takes the smallest of things to get to that next level of greatness. Lolo has had her share of injuries and set backs throughout her career, including a diagnosis of tethered spinal cord syndrome, which required surgery after the ’08 games, as well as a hamstring tweak back in early spring of this year. Athletics are reaching a new level in performance and it truly takes the greatest attention to detail to get an edge over all of the world’s best. Lolo will have to work to get to London too. There is a fresh crop of US Female hurdlers ready to take over Eugene and Lolo’s season best time only ranks 8th out of them. Top 3 make it to London and while Jones hasn’t run many races this season nothing is guaranteed for the US Hurdle girl. The trials coverage starts today and Lolo will be competing at 8:40 pm EST tonight. Television coverage can be found on NBC Sports.
Here are two videos of Lolo in competition and with Project X…
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