Welsh teenager Jade Jones has won Team GB their first-ever gold medal in taekwondo at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The team have been helped on their quest for Olympic glory by engineering giant BAE Systems.
Engineers and scientists from the company’s Advanced Technology Centre in Bristol have been applying to the sport techniques and principles used to develop fighter jets and military tanks.
The BAE Systems group has spent more than six months testing a new electronic scoring vest system with equipment usually used to test composite materials’ resistance to impact. The special project is part of a £1.5 million technology partnership with UK Sport.
An athlete-based electronic scoring system was introduced into taekwondo a few years ago. Fighters wear special electronic socks that deliver a coded signal when they strike sensors on the opponent’s vest. But athletes and coaches have never fully understood how the system functions and how to fully optimise appropriate tactics.
BAE Systems project leader Kelvin Davies said: “We found that different parts of the vest behaved in different ways. The differences are small, but they are there. We have been working with the GB taekwondo team to validate the results, as the controlled test conditions we create in the laboratory need to be qualified in real-world situations.
“We are confident that the work we have done with the team will make a real difference in future competitions.”
The findings have helped the taekwondo team to adjust their training style to improve the fighting methods needed to score on the vest.
Gary Hall, GB taekwondo performance director, said: “The new technology is all about electronics and engineering and from the outset we didn’t really understand how it worked and how tactics should be optimised. However, thanks to BAE Systems’ world-renowned engineering skills we have adjusted our tactics to reflect the different forces that are needed to score on certain parts of the vest.”
Under the technology partnership with UK Sport, BAE Systems has already helped 20 elite sports teams and 140 individual athletes and their coaches, including taekwondo, track cycling, skeleton bobsled, sailing, short-track speed skating, athletics, canoeing (slalom and sprint), badminton, wheelchair basketball, equestrian three-day eventing, wheelchair racing, swimming, modern pentathlon and shooting.
The defence and security company continues to provide expertise in structural and mechanical engineering, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, mathematical modelling and simulation, and materials science to some of Britain's major medal-winning sports.