Dutch skaters are rigorously gearing up for the forthcoming Winter Olympics. But, have you ever wondered about the science behind the fairness of ‘the start’? Dive deep into the mysteries of the athletic brain to uncover the answers.
The Dutch Legacy in Ice Sports
The Netherlands rightfully earns its reputation as a powerhouse in ice sports. Year after year, our athletes contend for top accolades, especially in long track speed skating. Apart from this, the nation boasts of exceptional talents in short track, figure skating, and ice hockey – the latter predominantly being a hit in the USA. However, the crux of this discussion focuses on the gem of Dutch sports: long track speed skating.
Analyzing the Start Dynamics
As the referee calls out “Go to the start,” followed by “Ready,” the skaters take off at the sound of the gunshot. But former sprinter Beorn Nijenhuis challenges this starting protocol’s fairness. A comprehensive report in the Volkskrant highlighted the inconsistent duration of the start procedure, for instance, ranging between 3.5 and 5 seconds during the Vancouver games. According to Nijenhuis, deep-seated brain functions – which remain consistent across humans and are impervious to training – diminish alertness the longer one waits. This waiting game affects men’s end times by roughly 5% and women’s staggering 27%. His solution? Standardize the start using a computer to ensure equity and potentially enhance performance.
The Power of Visualization
Imagining the race with eyes closed, sensing each twist and turn, understanding the layout – that’s visualization for you. This method is rather straightforward in skating, where the main competition is oneself, devoid of unexpected external challenges. The science behind its effectiveness lies in neurons interpreting these visualizations almost as real-life experiences. Essentially, it tricks the brain into believing the action is occurring. Research reveals that this technique fosters new neural connections. Veteran skater Erben Wennemars exemplifies the utilization of visualization in training. Watch his dedicated practice in this insightful video:
A Coaching Perspective: The Infamous Slip-up
Often, discussions pivot around athletes, sidelining the pivotal role of the coach. Reflecting on the significance of optimal brain functioning in coaching, who can forget the notorious exchange mistake involving Sven Kramer? Gerard Kemkers mistakenly directed Sven, causing an unfortunate error. Engrossed in his board and round timings, Kemkers faced challenges in singular task concentration. Science proves that true multitasking is a myth; we merely toggle between tasks, known as task-switching, incurring a cognitive “penalty” time. Professor Kirschner, a noted researcher, suggests completing one task before transitioning to the next. This possible cognitive lag, amidst Kemkers’ preoccupation, might explain the costly error. Watch this comprehensive recap by NOS spotlighting Kemkers’ critical misjudgment: