Airbus wind tunnel in Bristol helps Paralympic athletes


Scientists in Bristol are helping top wheelchair athletes prepare for the 2012 Paralympics using a wind tunnel.

One athlete Shelly Woods, who won silver and bronze in Beijing, is using BAE Systems' testing facility to analyse her racing position.

She said: "If we can slice the tiniest margin from our times by improving our racing efficiency, it could be the difference between winning and losing."

Paralympic 1,500m champion David Weir was at the site on Tuesday.

The tests are part of a joint project between BAE Systems and UK Sport.

Experts are observing Woods's performance in the Airbus wind tunnel and then advise her about the best racing positions for different scenarios on the track.

Woods, 26, from Blackpool, said: "While we continue to work hard in training, we know that across the world our rivals are doing exactly the same.

"As we fast approach the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2011 and then the games in London we need to ensure our attention to detail is exceptional in order to give us the edge."

'Air resistance'

Peter Fenton, from BAE Systems, said: "The chair's going to be mounted on a mechanical balance, which is like a large weighing scale and that's going to measure the drag loads.

"The drag loads are so important because the drag is the air resistance and we are trying to minimise that air resistance and that means the athlete can move through the air faster."

The project is also examining the overall design of the wheelchair to see where improvements could be made. This would include everything from factors affecting performance to how the chair can be stored.

BAE Systems was recently involved in a project with Britain's bob-skeleton team which developed the sled nicknamed "Arthur" and was used by Amy Williams who won a gold medal at this year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

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