TV graph­ics can now keep up with down­hillers

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - GRA­HAM DUN­BAR

Tele­vi­sion view­ers are get­ting their first look at some new on­screen tech­nol­ogy at the world skiing cham­pi­onships in St. Moritz.

Graph­ics in­clude dy­namic speed checks through­out a skier’s run, show­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion out of the tough­est cor­ners, and count air time, plus launch and land­ing speeds, on big jumps.

It’s all part of a project that has been two years in the mak­ing, and it started with the women’s su­per-G Tues­day as the In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion seeks to use the twoweek cham­pi­onships in St. Moritz, Switzer­land, to con­nect with young fans raised on video game vi­su­als.

“This is the fu­ture, this is also a mar­ket­ing tool, this is en­ter­tain­ing the TV world,” Em­manuel Couder, the project leader, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Transpon­ders will be at­tached to the back of a racer’s boot — the safest spot to place the gadgets which are sim­i­lar in size to an old cell­phone.

They will col­lect, process and trans­mit real-time data for broad­cast­ers to use in the speed events of down­hill and su­per-G, in­clud­ing the down­hill runs in Alpine com­bined.

The transpon­der does all the work to en­sure in­stant on­screen info, Couder said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“The de­sign had to be fully in­te­grated oth­er­wise it would be re­jected,” he said. “If you send the data live and you cal­cu­late and treat them after­ward, then it’s too late. The de­lay is not ac­cept­able.”

Couder has been work­ing with of­fi­cial race timers Swiss Tim­ing, whose Longines watch brand is a long­time FIS spon­sor, for two years on the Alpine Live Data project. FIS passed a rule mak­ing it manda­tory for rac­ers to wear the transpon­der.

“They know it is im­por­tant,” Couder said of the skiers, whose rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the FIS Ath­letes Com­mis­sion were the first he con­sulted.

For a sport rou­tinely send­ing men and women hurtling down a mountain at 120 km/h (75 mph) and more, it has lagged be­hind in TV pre­sen­ta­tion, Couder said.

In World Cup races this sea­son, on­screen graph­ics are limited to not­ing rac­ers’ speed at a static point and list­ing a stack of in­ter­me­di­ate time splits. They are colour coded with a green light for the fastest racer and red when a time trails the leader.

“We are late in Alpine skiing,” the French of­fi­cial said. “For me, this is just the be­gin­ning. The op­por­tu­ni­ties are huge.”

For pure en­ter­tain­ment, the graph­ics are ex­pected to be added next sea­son to broad­casts of World Cup races, in­clud­ing in tech­ni­cal dis­ci­plines of slalom and gi­ant slalom, and at the 2018 Olympics.

“I hope so,” Couder said. “We are al­ready in con­tact with Olympic Broad­cast Ser­vices.”

EM­MANUEL COUDER, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A transpon­der is at­tached to the back of Alpine racer Guillermo Fayed’s ski boot in Val d’Isere.

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