Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sport shoes: The magic bullet?

Nice to think there is a pair of super shoes out there that could turn a couch potato like me into another Usain Bolt. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is there is not, nor is it likely there will ever be. After millions of dollars have been spent on research and development shoe companies have failed to impact on World breaking records, as witnessed by Rio 2016.

Companies like Nike tirelessly try to achieve the magic elixir by many novel ways which involve the latest technologies but to no real avail. Whilst success in other areas of sports clothing such as swimming and cycling etc., have proved more fruitful field and track shoes remain more or less the same. Shoes remain the most vital piece of equipment an elite athlete has but to date, new models do not shave millimetres of performance records.

Modern sport shoes with their high colourways etc., function mainly as advertising billboards for apparel companies and shoe deals give the means of financing athletes. Usain Bolt (Jamaica), makes $32.5 million a year, including $30 million in endorsements. Far less visible athletes make between $10,000 to $25,000 annually from their contracts with shoe companies, along with prize money and other endorsements. Shoe designers continue to produce shoes which undoubtedly, do not distract athletes from a good performance but despite all manner of comfort and traction tweeking, modern footwear alone will never replace years of training, good coaching and the right body mechanics.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 2016 Rio de Janeiro

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.Over 11,000 athletes from 207 National Olympic Committees, including first time entrants Kosovo, South Sudan, and the Refugee Olympic Team, took part. These games featured 28 Olympic sports, including rugby sevens and golf. The lead-up to these Games was marked by controversies, including the instability of the country's federal government; health and safety concerns surrounding the Zika virus and significant pollution in the Guanabara Bay; and a doping scandal involving Russia, which has affected the participation of its athletes in the Games.

The Olympic flame was lit at the temple of Hera in Olympia on 21 April 2016, and handed over to the Brazilian organizers at a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The torch relay visited more than 300 Brazilian cities (including all the 26 states capitals and the Brazilian Federal District), before arriving in Rio de Janeiro. Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the men's marathon bronze medallist at the 2004 Summer Olympics lit the cauldron during the 2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony on 5 August. The cauldron was originally expected to be lit by Brazilian footballer Pelé, but he declined to participate due to health problems.

The opening ceremony was held in the Maracanã Stadium and highlighted aspects of Brazilian history and culture, and featured a segment narrated by Fernanda Montenegro and Dame Judi Dench with an appeal to environmental conservation and preventing global warming.

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad were fraught with complications and political turmoil. In preparation, the whole city underwent major infrastructure improvements, but some of the projects never materialised. The Olympic Village was the biggest ever but claims were made some of the structure was unsafe, Crime around the village dogged the games with many reports of athletes being mugged or threatened. Water pollution in the Guanabara Bay, continued to be an ongoing concern despite assurances every effort had been taken to reduce sewage pollution. An outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Brazil prior to the Olympics caused much alarm to the organisers. Many extra precautions were taken to prevent the spread of the virus and the World Health Organization were able to report no confirmed cases of Zika among athletes or visitors during the Olympics.

The USA (556) had the biggest team , followed by host nation Brazil (469), Germany (424), Australia (421) and China (404). The smallest team at the Games was from the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. Their sole competitor was Etimoni Timuani in the men’s 100m (athletics). Michael Phelps (US) won 18 gold medals for swimming which was more than the gold medal tally of hosts Brazil (11 gold).

The mascots, Vinicius (Olympics) and Tom (Paralympics) were chosen to reflect the diversity of Brazil's culture and people. Vinicius, was named after musician Vinicius de Moraes, and represented Brazilian wildlife and carried design traits of cats, monkeys, and birds.

A drug scandal involving state sponsored drug taking by athletes led to a ban on Russian athletes from competing in the Rio Games

For the first time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed athletes to compete as Independent Olympians under the Olympic Flag. From 43 refugee athletes deemed potentially eligible, 10 were chosen to form the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) , by the IOC. Due to the suspension of the National Olympic Committee of Kuwait, participants from Kuwait were allowed to participate under the Olympic Flag as Independent Olympic Athletes.

Relatively few world track records were broken at Rio 2016. In the Men’s 400m, Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa) won the gold medal with a World Record time of 43.03 seconds. He beat the previous record time of 43.18 seconds set by Michael Johnson during the 1999 World Championships in Athletics in Seville, Spain.

Conseslus Kipruto (Kenya) middle distance runner beat his personal best of 8:00.12 minutes for the 3000 m steeplechase at Rio 2016 with a time of 8:03.28 min and a new world record.

In the ladies’ track events, Almaz Ayana Eba (Ethiopia) set a new 10,000 metres world record, with 29:17.45 mins, breaking the previous one set in 1993.

Two wrestling coaches from Mongolia got so angry after a last-second penalty caused Mandakhnaran Ganzorig to lose a bronze medal they protested by removing their clothing and threw their shoes to the floor. The two protesters had to be escorted away by Brazilian police.

After he failed to clear a height of 5.3 metres in group A of the first round of the pole vault, Japanese pole vaulter, Hiroki Ogita, was distraught to find his penis had caused the bar to fall over. He was able to clear 5.45 metres on his final jump but sadly it was not enough to send him through and his earlier foul cost him dearly.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be best remembered for colourful shoes worn by the athletes. Usain Bolt (Jamaica) wore his golden shoes for competition.

Golfers were keen to be seen in competition wearing patriotic colourways. Victoria Lovelady (Brazil), sported her country's colours on the 3rd hole during the first round of the women's golf event.

Bubba Watson (United States) played the final round of men's golf wearing Stars and Stripes.

Off track the U.S. athletes wore bright yellow (Volt) Nike Free RN Flyknits, Yellow is the most visible colour to the human eye and volt is the most visible version of yellow. Nike sponsored the team and provided the custom footwear to promote their company.

Team GB athletes’ stole the show when they wore flashing deck shoes at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony. The shoes were charged using a USB port and flashed in red, white and blue for up to four hours.

Every Olympic athlete received a swag bag, brim full of gifts from the Games sponsors and other. This Games, the swag bag contained over 40 items from Nike., including 2 pairs of sandals for men, (1 pair for women), 3 pairs of athletic shoes, (2 for women), 3 pairs of workout leggings, 4 tank tops, 2 warmup jackets, and 3 pairs of socks only for women.

The closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics was held at the Maracanã Stadium and featured cultural presentations from both the current (Brazil) and following (Japan) host countries. The official handover of the Olympic flag from Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes to Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike took place as did the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Best of Men (trailer)

Sir Ludwig Guttmann (1899 – 1980): Founder of the Paralympic Games

Tanni Grey-Thompson speaks about the Jewish Refugee academic Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who founded the Paralympic Games At the joint British Academy - Association of Jewish Refugees Event held at the British Academy on 10th November Commemoration and Celebration: The British Academy and the Jewish Refugee Academics in Britain after 1933.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What eugenicists did for women's sport?

Summer holidays is a traditional time to rest and feast. Unfortunately most of us spend the rest of the year trying to lose the excess pounds we gain during the mid winter break. Spare a thought then for those athletes who need to keep in training during the holiday period. Whilst we might take women in sport for granted today, this was not always the case. Indeed during the early nineteenth century it was quite unthinkable for young ladies to be seen engaging in physical recreation. All this changed thanks in many ways to an eccentric man by the name Bernarr McFadden. He was a Darwinist and eugenicist and had made his fortune from writing and selling pulp fiction and magazines. Born in 1868, he was a prolific author and publisher of popular books and magazines. The self styled professor of kinesitherapy,wrote in his journals on the health the benefits of physical activities for men and women. Titles like Woman's Beauty and Health, Physical Culture, National Brain Power and Muscle Builder all became instant successes. McFadden’s publishing empire had another side to it and that was the sensational journal titles. True Story, True Romances, True Lovers, and True Confessions all came from the same stable. Men were more likely to read them but the journals did sell well and were the equivalent of today's soft porn.

Like contemporary eugenist, William Keith Kellogg inventor of the corn flake, cereal manufacturer, McFadden’s had many eccentric beliefs. Both men were of the opinion physical weaklings should not marry without first reaching an acceptable level of fitness. The ethos for Physical Culture, founded in 1899, was longevity of life and related to good living and appropriate exercise. McFadden often used himself as model for his publications and soon earned the title 'Bare Torso King'. Needless to say the popularity of his publications brought nothing but condemnation from the medical fraternity with much of their criticism directed toward encouragement of women taking exercise. It is not clear whether he was exploiting women or just preparing society to accept the importance of physical health for all. McFadden recognised how ignorant the general population was to the human body and cited better understanding would stop female degeneracy and make for a more physically fit and healthy nation. He encouraged young ladies to take up some of the more gentle outdoor pursuits such as walking, dancing, skating, croquet and cycling. He also advocated riding horses astride and for the more robust female frame women's baseball and basketball was ideal. This had major implications on the shoe industries.

As the popularity of physical culture societies spread throughout English speaking countries the middle classes flocked to them in their droves and of course needed the apparel. The first American Olympiad in 1904 included physical culture activities for women but females were not allowed to participate in the track and field events. The world was not quite ready for women doing physical jerks and it took another four years before the Olympic committee agreed to include ladies events (1928). Eugenics became a philosophical pillar of Nazi Germany in the thirties and mass exercise programs were openly encouraged. This again created a ready market for leisure shoes and as walking became a national past time; walking shoes took on the air of respectability and became the sensible shoes with its nemeses the heeled pump. It was only in the 1970s when the aerobic craze fronted by Jane Fonda was there as much interest in designing sport shoes for women. In the 21st century it has been left to the Soccer Moms to drive the shoe companies to cater for better fittings for girls’ soccer boots and now thankfully women in sport are better fitted than ever before.

Reviewed 31/08/2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Team GB's flashing shoes for sale (Limited Edition)

The Team Great Britain’s flashing shoes from the Rio Olympics’ closing ceremony are now on sale. The limited-edition light-up kicks by Simon Jersey , are available for online.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Etenesh Diro: One shoe hero

Etenesh Diro (Ethiopia) finished her 3,000-meters steeplechase heat with one shoe on and one shoe off. During the race in the pack with a couple of laps to go the Ethiopian athlete got clipped from behind and tangled up with some other competitors and her right shoe came half-off. For precious seconds, she knelt on the track and tried to pull the shoe back on.

As runner after runner passed her by she finally give up and negotiating the barriers and the water jump, finished the final three laps of the race with one bare foot. The crowd loved it and urged her on. Diro finished seventh and fell exhausted to the track, clutching her foot. Following protests by the Ethiopia, Ireland and Jamaica teams, Diro, Ireland's Sara Treacy and Jamaica's Aisha Praught were advanced to the final.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What shoes will adidas Olympic Champions be wearing ?

adidas sponsored Olympians who win medals in Rio will receive tailor-made pairs of the 3D-printed adidas Futurecraft. The exclusive footwear has breathable Primeknit uppers with outsoles crafted by 3D-printing based on the contours and unique arches of the particular athlete’s foot.

The custom made-to-order shoes are engineered through a 3D web construction and ditches the traditional glue and stitch process and includes a supportive heel.

The Triple Black adidas Futurecraft 3D also features unique accents on the laces, as they will be speckled with either metallic gold, silver, or bronze accents to represent the medal won by the athlete receiving the exclusive pair.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Weightlifter Oscar Figueroa retires

The best and most enduring way to retire from competition is for a competitor to remove their shoes and leave them where they finished their career. The latest athlete to do this is Oscar Figueroa of Colombia, who won the gold medal in men’s 62 kilogram weightlifting and then immediately retired.

Removing your shoes is a powerful metaphor. A symbol, part of you will always remain with the sport long after active competition. The most famous example of this retirement was wrestler Rulon Gardner at the 2004 Athens Olympics where he won bronze. The US Olympian couldn’t hold back his tears after walking away from the sport he loved and competed in for 11 years.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Michael Phelps : The shoes of a champion

At the Rio Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies, United States flag carrying superstar, Michael Phelps was wearing boat shoes designed by Ralph Lauren, but he will be heading to the pool wearing 3D-printed customized shoes by Under Armour. The sole of the shoe, as well as an outside panel display a 3D-printed image of the footprint of his 3-month old child. The imprint of his infant footprint is there to bring him good fortune in the pool. This personalised model is not available to the public, but plans are afoot (sorry for the pun) to release a new colour for the 3D concept, which falls under its ‘UA Architech’ brand later this month.

The UA Architech trainer was introduced earlier in the year and consisted of a 360-degree performance training shoe featuring a 3D printed midsole and 3D ClutchFit auxetic upper designer. According to the manufacturer, the lightweight shoes have an upper design to enhance fit and sold out in under twenty minutes.

Olympics Opening Ceremony Rio 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bubba Watson in Team USA shoes from G/FORE

Bubba Watson (US) Olympic golfer is the top-ranked golfer in the world and will be wearing Team USA shoes from G/FORE. The flexible and lightweight, Hi-Top Crusaders are made of waterproof full-grain leather in the uppers. G/FORE has released a limited-edition, patriotic version of the high-top Crusader shoes to the public at $300 (US).

Friday, March 25, 2016

Olympics: Jesse Owens and adidas 1936 Berlin

adidas was founded in 1924 by German brothers Rudolf and Adolf “Adi” Dassler. Adi Dassler sought to promote his athletic footwear among the world’s top athletes at the 1936 Olympics, with Jesse Owensreportedly one of his top targets. It is unclear exactly how Owens came into possession of the shoes; some stories indicate that Dassler approached him in the Olympic Village; others note that he asked German coach Jo Waitzer to pass on a few pairs to the American star. Whatever the means, Owens raced into the record books with his new shoes, which quickly became a popular brand, thanks to its association with the gold medalist. Jesse Owens famously won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin .

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Olympics: The Scottish Highland Games

The origin of the Highland Games predates recorded history. It is known King Malcolm III (1031-1093) summoned contestants to the the Braes O' Mar (Braemar) for a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich. He was determined to find the fittest soldiers and fastest runners to serve. This event, the ‘gille-ruith’ or running footmen, may have been the origin of the highland games. It is possible the King's wife, Margaret, a well educated woman, had read about the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece.

In their original form the Highland games revolved around athletic and sports competitions and invariably involved chieftains who were often very athletic. These popular events were not always restricted to the Highlands with games known to be held in the village of Ceres (Fife) shortly after the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The games were decreed by King Robert the Bruce as a celebration of Fife villagers who had returned from the battle field and have been have been held annually ever since. The Ceres Games are the oldest free games in Scotland.

The modern Highland Games are largely a Victorian invention developed after the Highland Clearances during the 18th and 19th centuries. The current Braemar Gathering and Highland Games started in 1816 when the Braemar Wright's Friendly Society was formed. The 'athletics' competition was held under the auspices of the society for the first time on 23rd August 1832. Queen Victoria attended her first Braemar Games in 1848 and soon after became the Patron. During Queen Victoria's reign the Gathering was attended by three neighbouring clans, representing the three large estates, the Balmoral Highlanders, Duff Highlanders (from Mar Estate) and the Farqharsons from Invercauld Estate. (Other Highlanders such as the Forbes and Lonach Highlanders sometimes took part.) Apart from athletic events the games include 'tossing the caber', 'putting the stone' and 'throwing the hammer'. The tug of war competition was always a great favourite.

When Baron Pierre de Coubertin (a close friend of Prince Albert) saw a display of Highland games at the Paris Exhibition of 1889 he was inspired to plan the revival of the Olympic Games. Today the Cowal Highland Gathering, better known as the Cowal Games, held in Dunoon, Scotland, every August, is the largest Highland games in Scotland attracting around 3,500 competitors and somewhere in the region of 23,000 spectators from around the globe.

In 1781 sports gatherings had become very popular in many lowland towns. To make competition more fierce rules were standardized and sanctioning bodies formed to develop uniform rules and maintain records. As Scots immigrated to far-flung lands they took their sport and culture with them. By the late 19th century athletic clubs had formed within many University and Private Schools in Commonwealth Countries. Initially known the Scottish Games abroad these became integrated into the bludgeoning popularity of physical culture. The Highland Games remained the primary focus of ex-pats and some of the biggest Highland Games in the world today are held in the US.

In the early days the Scots were famous for distance runners but by far the best known athlete Scotland ever produced was Eric Henry Liddell (1902 –1945), better known as The Flying Scotsman. He won gold in the men’s 400 metres 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. More famously he refused to run in the 4 x 400metre relay on the Sunday because of his devout Christian beliefs. His performance in the 400 metres however stood as a European record for 12 years.

The Commonwealth Games (the Friendly Games) were first held in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada where 11 countries sent 400 athletes to take part in six sports and 59 events. Since then, the Games have been held every four years (except for 1942 and 1946). Originally from 1930 to 1950 the Games were known as the British Empire Games and from 1954 until 1966 they were called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Later, from 1970 until 1974, they took the title of the British Commonwealth Games. Finally, at the 1978 Games in Edmonton, Canada this multi-sport event change its name to the Commonwealth Games. Edinburgh has hosted the Games in 1970 and 1986. Glasgow will host the XX Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Reviewed 14/02/2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Running shoes:Buyer beware!!

Seems consumers need to be more aware when buying running shoes. Scientific studies have shown sport shoes are prescribed and sold with over-simplistic claims not based on independent evidence. Injury prevention or comfort are not always the outcome from expensive purchases. Three dimensional analysis of movement (biomechanics) is complex and difficult to comprehend without considerable study, gait studies and computer analysis do help considerably but the data needs to be carefully interpreted. Laden with nomenclature, sports science is easily manipulated for market over-hype in a lexicon filled with jargonese and ill prepared shop assistants, not always able to decipher. Consumer beware!

Findings from independent studies support running shoes are less likely to prevent injury, and in some cases, can contribute to it. Hence, footwear companies are now shying away from overhype. Fallacious marketing claims of comfort and injury prevention are quickly discovered as recent high profile court case findings have shown. Manufacturers, keen to maintain their reputations and sales, are now more guarded but still prone to pander to the ill-informed. Serious runners are usually well read and often brand loyal, rarely changing style on a whim. So it appears the less well informed are the most prone to be influenced by glib tongued marketing jobbledegook.

Running shoes are marketed in four different types:

Motion control shoes are rigid for support and leverage. These shoes tend to be heavier than the more fashionable, lightweight runners.

Stability shoes are recommended for unstable (hypermobile) feet that roll inward when weight bearing. These usually include all the whizz bang biomechanical controls.

Cushioned shoes give protection and general comfort to the stable foot.

Minimalist/Barefoot shoes are novel foot shaped shoes with minimal protection and favoured by the faddists

Most stores dedicated to just running shoes have trained staff to help customers with fitting and style choices etc. The best outlets engage assistants with a working knowledge of sport science who can match stock to customer goals and training intensity etc. High street sports outlets on the other hand purvey popular brands promoting the latest releases at the front of the store. New models date quickly with on average a shelf life of three months. These stores do carry a limited range of popular evergreens which are often on display at the back of the store or on request. Shop assistants are usually enthusiastic but not always expert and rely heavily on fitting paraphernalia such as computer aids. Commercial software is written to move manufacturers’ stock and is not always a true independent indicator of the collected data.

All experts agree fit and comfort are key to proper shoe fitting. Price and make alone are not the best criteria, to buy shoes. Professional endorsements, marketing rhetoric and personal recommendations need to be taken with a pinch of salt when shopping for running.

Athletic Shoes American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon's athletic fitting guide
Ryan MB, Valiant GA, McDonald K, Taunton JE. (2011) The effect of three different levels of footwear stability on pain outcomes in women runners: a randomised control trial. Br J Sports Med. 2011 Jul;45(9):715-21. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2009.069849. Epub 2010 Jun 27.