Amy Williams Wins Winter Olympic Gold: The Science Behind Her Success

Half VolleyContributor IIFebruary 22, 2010

WHISTLER, BC - FEBRUARY 21:  Amy Williams of Great Britain poses for a photo with her Gold Medal after winning the Women's Skeleton event on 19th February, on day 10 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics on February 21, 2010 in Whistler, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Amy Williams’ victory in the women’s skeleton bob is Britain’s first solo Winter Olympics gold medal in 30 years.

The Sport Science graduate, 27, broke her own track record in a time of 3:35.64.

Amy’s gold is Britain’s ninth ever and a first at a Winter Olympics since Scot Rhona Martin led the curling team to victory in 2002.

Amy’s success was also a triumph for British technology and focused funding. Like cycling in the summer games, the skeleton bob is a sport that has been particularly targeted. It receives a third of the winter sport budget with its funding increasing from £800,000 to £2.1m.

This determined effort to get results has clearly paid off.

However, the United States lodged a complaint against Williams’ claiming the ridges on her helmet gave her an illegal aerodynamic advantage. The protest, which was supported by five other nations, was dismissed by skeleton’s international governing body.

The Science behind the success:

The Sprint —Amy ran 45m in spiked shoes to reach maximum speed before diving onto her sled. Her history as a 400m sprinter gave her an edge over the other competitors.

The Sled —Named Arthur, and costing £100 000, her sled was made by scientists at BAE Systems at Southampton University. It is made from carbon fibre with a high-grade steel chassis and is custom-fit to her body shape allowing her to reach speeds of 90mph.

The Suit —With the same aerodynamic properties of those used in the British cycling team, the materials used in Amy’s suit are kept secret to prevent rivals stealing the design

The Helmet —The back of the helmet, a source of much controversy, has ridges built in for optimum aerodynamics.

This article was written by Katie Hobbs for Half Volley , the half sport, half science website.

Was it right for the complaints against Williams to be dismissed? Please comment below.