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Understanding the role of technique in skeleton push-start performance

Project Description


Skeleton is a Winter Olympic sliding sport where athletes initiate a run by sprinting with a bent over posture whilst pushing a sled for ~20-30 m before ‘loading’ and adopting a prone driving position. This start phase is considered a crucial aspect of performance in elite skeleton competitions. Consequently, British skeleton athletes invest much time developing physically and refining their push-starts on the push-track at the University of Bath, the only facility of its kind in the UK. To date, this strategy has been very successful for British skeleton athletes, most notably with Lizzy Yarnold’s unprecedented back-to-back Olympic Gold medals and a record 3 Olympic medals at the most recent Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Evidence logically suggests that better sprinters make better push-starters. However, there are clear differences between these movements, and the transfer of upright sprinting ability to bent-over push-start performance varies considerably across athletes. Such variation is likely attributable to differences in technique, and is conceivably associated with the physical and anthropometric characteristics of athletes. However, little scientific evidence currently exists regarding the technical characteristics underlying push-start ability amongst athletes of differing qualities. Such information could inform training and coaching practices, as well as talent identification processes, to ultimately enhance start performance and provide a competitive edge.

The objectives of this project are:
• To characterise technique and quantitatively analyse skeleton athlete’s technique during push-starts
• To identify how physical and anthropometric characteristics of athletes interact with technique to influence push-start performance
• To analyse how technique and training can be modified according to individual athletes’ characteristics to elicit improvements in push-start ability

In order to achieve such objectives, the PhD student will undertake both biomechanical (motion analysis) and physical (e.g. strength/power and anthropometric) data collection on national-squad skeleton athletes. The PhD student will also work closely day-to-day with the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association.


Candidates with a strong background in sports science and biomechanics (BSc or MSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science or a related field) are encouraged to apply.

Highly desirable skills and experiences:
• research experience with biomechanical analysis
• applied experience working with elite athletes
• excellent written and oral communication skills
• knowledge of human anatomy
• ability to work with different stake holders
• being flexible and highly self-motivated

Interviews for shortlisted candidates are due to take place on 4 December 2019.

Anticipated start date: January 2020

Funding Notes

Funded jointly the University of Bath and the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, this studentship will cover Home/EU tuition fees, an annual stipend (£15,009 (19/20 rate) and a training support fee for a period of up to 3 years for full time study.

Please note, there will be an option for the studentship to be extended to four years, if the student wishes to undertake a graduate teaching assistant role. Further details will be provided during the interview.

How good is research at University of Bath in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 22.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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