Wind tunnel aerodynamic tests to improve the performance of top athletes

In Research

On 14, 15 and 16 June, the University of Liège is hosting several top-level French-speaking Belgian sportsmen (wheelchair athletics, handbike, triathlon) in order to carry out various aerodynamic tests with them in the ULiège Wind Tunnel Lab on the Sart Tilman campus.

On Tuesday 14 June, Roger Habsch, sprinter in a wheelchair over 100 and 200 metres, double bronze medallist at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, launched this series of tests conducted with the teams of Thomas Andrianne (Wind Tunnel Lab) and Cédric Schwartz (Laboratory of Movement Analysis) at ULiège.

ULiège is one of the three member universities of the “Centre d'Aide à la Performance Sportive” (CAPS), which is responsible for monitoring high-level athletes in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. Within the CAPS, ULiège is more particularly specialised in isokinetics (evaluation and re-education of muscular power, injury prevention) and in the biomechanical aspects of the evaluations of high-level athletes.

A unique collaboration in Wallonia between the Movement Analysis Laboratory and the Wind Tunnel Lab of the ULiège has been set up in order to simultaneously evaluate the biomechanical aspects (gestures, technique of the athlete) and the aerodynamic aspects, the aim being to propose the optimal compromise for the athlete's performance.

Although aerodynamics is an important component of performance, it is still not very well evaluated in French-speaking Belgian high-level athletes. However, as an example, at 40 km/h, 90% of the athlete's energy is spent on countering aerodynamic resistance.

Over the past few months, the Movement Analysis Laboratory and the Wind Tunnel Lab have been working on the development of aerodynamic tests specifically adapted to high-level athletes in several disciplines (wheelchair, triathlon, cycling, handbike). The aim is to study the effects of posture on drag (loss of performance).

The experience of the ULiège teams is well established. Previously, they worked on the evaluation of the positions on the bicycle of riders in the professional cycling peloton. At that time, the work was based on scale models. This time, however, the 'real' sportsmen were positioned directly in the wind tunnel of the School of Engineering on the Sart Tilman campus.

The tests carried out with the participation of the athletes supported by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation are part of an original collaboration at the intersection of medical, motor and engineering sciences. In addition to Roger Habsch, Jean-François Deberg, Maxime Hordies (handbike) and Christophe De Keyser (triathlon) are coming this week to improve their aerodynamic performance at the ULiège.




Thomas Andrianne

Cédric Schwartz

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