Preparation for competition

Modern technology has become increasingly involved and important in preparing an athlete for competition. New machines and facilities are constantly being developed in order to make sure that athletes have the best possible advantage over other athletes. This can be in terms of using state of the art gym equipment, training at the most advanced facilities, having access to hypoxic tents and other such equipment or resources that allow coaches and athletes to analyse their own performance.

It can be argued that modern technology has both positive and negative consequences for sport and athletes. One of the ways in which athletes have benefited from modern technology is by the specific feedback they can now have regarding their performance. For example, underwater cameras have been developed for swimming, which allows the swimmers’ every stroke to be watched and analysed from under the water, and from this feedback can be given by the coach and swimmer themselves about how to improve and make their stroke even more effective.

However, it can be argued that these cameras shouldn’t be used as they can be dangerous; in the 2004 Olympics, Sarah Price badly hurt her leg due to getting it caught on an underwater camera during warm up. Furthermore, there are also issues with grants given. Many small swimming clubs would be unable to afford to buy the underwater cameras, because they are very expensive – this would mean more government money has to go into buying this equipment. Many people argue that this money could go to better use.

On the other hand, it can be argued that it is investment; putting money into sport means getting money out when athletes win international competitions. Computers are now able to simulate a player’s performance and virtual models can be created in order for technique to be further analysed. For example, in sprinting, a computer simulation can be used to get optimum body position so the runner can be as efficient as possible in competition. It is also helpful for rowers who can simulate the race before doing it, thus preparing them for the competition.

However, it can be argued that this is unfair on poorer countries; this equipment is very expensive and so only rich countries would be able to afford it. Therefore, some countries would be put at a disadvantage in global events and sport could become about which country has the most money in order to help their athletes improve, rather than who is the best athlete. Alongside advances in feedback and analysing performance are advances in facilities and equipment available to athletes. Scientists can now recreate a training environment, which means that the athlete doesn’t have to travel anywhere.

For example, before running in the marathon, Paula Radcliffe lived in a hypoxic tent for two weeks. This raised her red blood cell count and enabled more oxygen to travel around her body, thus improving her performance and preparing her for the competition. This is similar to altitude training, in which an athlete trains at a high altitude in order to increase the number of red blood cells in their bloodstream. This can be seen as unfair because athletes are no longer only training hard to reach elite level – hypoxic tents require little effort, and so the real meaning for sport is lost behind technology.

On the other hand, it can be argued that it is simply making sport fairer. For example, those who live at high altitude are automatically at an advantage in sport, because the oxygen content is lower and so the body naturally makes more red blood cells. Therefore those who live at low altitude are now able to have the same effects as those who live at high altitude. An important factor in preparing an athlete for competition is monitoring arousal levels. At elite level, many athletes are at the same skill level and so it is the ability to control anxiety and arousal levels that makes winners.

Technology such as biofeedback can achieve this. Many athletes now use equipment such as heart rate monitors in order to find out what their heart rate is; they can then work on ways to reduce their heart rate and arousal levels and then use a heart rate monitor again to see if it is working. This is helpful for sportspeople who require high levels of concentration such as darts and snooker players – keeping control of their arousal levels is essential in order to keep a steady hand. Nutritional requirements are also an essential factor to take into consideration whilst preparing an athlete for competition.

Technology allows athletes to structure their diet to give them the biggest benefit. For example, professional footballers are told what to eat and when to eat it, in order to ensure that the right diet is had so that the athletes are prepared. This helps the athlete stay at the correct weight, because the coach can work out how much exercise they are doing and how many calories they are burning, and from this they can see how much the athlete needs to eat. It can be argued that this is an invasion on an athlete’s personal life; they can’t eat what they want and have to follow strict guidelines.

However, in order to reach an elite level, an athlete has to be completely dedicated. Specific clothing has also been developed for sportspeople in order to prepare them for elite competition. For example, Cathy Freeman in the Sydney 2000 Olympics wore a specially designed suit in order to keep her body at an optimum temperature for the race. This shows how technology has been developed in order to prepare her and give her the best possible advantage in the race. Speed also developed the SZR racing suit, which gives less drag in the water and makes them more streamlined.

In conclusion, there are many ways that athletes can prepare themselves for important competition through the use of modern technology. Some of these relate to the learning and refining of skills, such as underwater cameras, which provide essential feedback for performers. Others can be to do with the right clothing or equipment that will give them the best advantage over other athletes. However, there is still some debate as to whether such technology should be used, as it may be unfair to other athletes and poorer countries.

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