Irish Swimming Goes High Tech

NUI Galway student and Sports Scholarship athlete Kevin McGlade with researcher Robert Mooney.
May 27 2013 Posted: 14:52 IST

Swim Ireland Teams Up with NUI Galway to Pioneer Ground Breaking Performance Analysis Technology

Swim Ireland has teamed up with NUI Galway with a view to developing a new high performance analysis system for competitive swimming. The development work is well under way on the new system which utilises innovative kinematic sensing technology. The new technology which is in test mode is being designed to deliver performance information in real time both to the swimmer and his/her coach.

The technology is the brainchild of PhD student Robert Mooney who is a former Swim Ireland employee. The development team is led by Professor Gearóid Ó Laighin of NUI Galway’s Discipline of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Funding for the research is being provided both by Swim Ireland and by the Irish Research Council’s Enterprise Partnership Scheme. It is hoped to have the prototype system up and running by early 2014.

Once developed, the system will be tested on elite Irish swimmers to measure, record and track their technical improvements achieved with training. Athletes to be tested will include swimmers based at the recently established Swim Ireland Connacht Performance Centre, based at the Kingfisher facility on the NUI Galway campus and which was officially launched last November.

Lead researcher Robert Mooney commented: “A coach can often observe where improvements need to be made, but having hard evidence to back this up is key. We want to facilitate a new approach to swimming coaching, allowing for improved analysis of stroke mechanics, race performance and energy expenditure as well as real-time feedback to the swimmer, enabling more efficient, competitive and quantitative swim coaching.”

“Any competitive swimmer will tell you just how demanding their sport is.  In a sport of narrow margins where the difference between winning and not winning can be little as one one-hundredth of a second, the availability of the proposed system might make all the difference”, explains Professor Ó Laighin. “With this in mind we are capitalising on low-cost, high-performance Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMs) technology coupled with innovative algorithms to achieve our goals.”

Peter Banks is Performance Director with Swim Ireland, the national governing body for aquatic sports in Ireland. Banks is no stranger to success, having coached US swimmer Brooke Bennett to three gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. “We have seen a marked increase in the success of Irish swimmers on the international stage in recent years, with medal winning performances by the likes of Gráinne Murphy, Sycerika McMahon and Melanie Nocher. This type of technology is very exciting for Irish swimming to be involved with, the project gives our coaches and swimmers an opportunity to learn more about how athletes perform in the training pool and helps us make more informed decisions around their training programmes.”


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