AUTO TECH MEETS ATHLETE

Behind every successful swimmer are parents who would rouse themselves from a deep slumber to wake their equally coma-like offspring and drive them to hours-long, pre-dawn workouts in the community pool.

They watched their brood over the years as the soft, young bodies changed shape and became the hard-muscled, yet pliable, physiques of swimmers.

The road to the Olympics is paved with memories of perfecting that slick, millisecond-shaving underwater turn-and-glide and heartaches of losing to a rival by the length of a fingernail.

Imagine being able to get an extra edge to slice more time off the clock the way automakers retool and re-sculpt their cars aerodynamically to pierce the dense air of racetracks and take the checkered flag?

BMW, the Official Mobility Partner of the United States Olympic Committee, has combined its years of automotive engineering with sports science to offer swimmers as well as long-jumpers such a mechanism as they prepare for the London Games.

It all comes down to physics. For long-jumpers, BMW developed a velocity measurement system that broke the event down to three key elements – horizontal approach velocity, vertical takeoff velocity and takeoff angle.

The software technology is similar to that being developed by BMW engineers in driver-assistance systems to improve future safety.

Ahh, German engineering never fails to amaze, so in April, the carmaker said it was developing a similar system that would track the motion of a swimmer’s stroke at starts and turns. The tracking system would perform a data analysis that would be handed over to coaches.

The data would in turn allow coaches to tweak their swimmers’ strokes or kicks.

It’s a step up from the current method of studying a swimmer’s performance via videos and manually counting strokes.

“We’re eager to build upon what we learned from USA Track and Field and are focused on delivering performance data for USA Swimming to help improve starts and turns – those pivotal moments in a race where Olympic medals are lost and won,” Dirk Rossberg, head of the BMW Group Technology Office USA, said in a statement.

BMW is diving headlong into its role as a partner in the Summer Olympics.

In addition to its support of Team USA, BMW has formed the BMW Performance Team, a group of 11 athletes who hope to compete in the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. The athletes are:

• Ricky Berens, swimming
• Matt Chrabot, triathlon
• Natalie Coughlin, swimming
• Janet Evans, swimming
• April Holmes, Paralympic track and field
• Jonathan Horton, gymnastics
• Clay Johnson, sailing
• Sanya Richards-Ross, track and field
• Evelyn Stevens, cycling
• Mallory Weggemann, Paralympic swimming.

If you can’t make it to the Summer Games, BMW is offering a way for U.S. drivers to show their support for Team USA. For everyone who test-drives a vehicle at a special BMW event through Aug. 25, BMW of North America will donate $10 to Team USA.

To register for a BMW Drive for Team USA event, visit bmwusa.com/driveforteamusa.

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