Skeleton success – Swansea research behind British medals at Winter Olympics

Swansea sports science expertise is behind the extraordinary success of British athletes competing in the skeleton in the Winter Olympics.

The sport accounts for 3 of the 4 medals which Great Britain has won in the competition so far.   

  • Lizzy Yarnold (Gold Medal)
  • Laura Deas (Bronze)
  • Dom Parsons (Bronze)

For the past twelve years, sports science experts at Swansea University have been working with British skeleton athletes, improving their pre-competition routine. 

Professor Liam Kilduff and Professor Christian Cook from Swansea University conducted a number of key studies on priming the athletes’ neuromuscular, endocrine and thermoregulatory systems, to help boost their performance.

600 x 400

Picture: Lizzy Yarnold, gold medal winner in the Skeleton  (credit: Wikimedia Commons 121a0012)

Professor Kilduff, who leads the Elite and Professional Sport research group at Swansea University, said:

“Three medals for our skeleton athletes is a wonderful achievement. It’s great for us here in Sports Science to have played our part over the last twelve years.”

The collaboration between Swansea experts, UK Sport and British Skeleton stretches back for the last 3 Winter Olympic cycles.

The 3 medals from PyeongChang add to the golds won by Amy Williams (2010 Vancouver) and Lizzy Yarnold (2014 Sochi).

Professor Kilduff paid tribute to the close partnership with British Skeleton, and their Head of Performance, Danny Holdcroft:

“This partnership has advanced our understanding of the importance of the pre-competition window.  It has also transformed the pre-competition strategies of athletes competing at major games.

Danny is a great example of a very forward-thinking Head of Performance who wants to embrace key sports science research. He helps drive the research to ensure it answers their key performance issues.” 

Study sports science at Swansea University

Pictures: sports science experts working with Swansea City FC

Danny Holdcroft, Head of Performance for British Skeleton, said:

"As a performance programme, we are driven to deliver performance at the pinnacle of sport, the Winter Olympics. 

As part of this, we explore many avenues and try to be innovative around the methods that we use to physically train and prepare our athletes. Having partners such as the Swansea university are key to helping us answer key performance questions and we are grateful for the support that Prof Liam Kilduff has given us"

Liam KilduffProfessor Kilduff (pictured) added:

“We pride ourselves here at Swansea University in conducting research that has real life implications.  We are ranked 5th in the UK for our research impact in Sport Science. By working with teams like British Skeleton this model aims to continue producing research that makes an impact on elite and professional sport.”

Professor Kilduff leads the Welsh Institute of Performance Science, which conducts research to enhance the performance of Welsh athletes at major games in collaboration with all the universities in Wales.  

He travels to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra in early March to present on his research in the area of pre-competition strategies.