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What if the greatest elite athletes – present and past – could compete against each other on a level playing field? If competitive conditions were made equal, would today’s stars come out on top? Or would they be beaten by the heroes of the past? Renowned sports scientist Steve Haake investigates whether today’s winter sports champions are really better than those of the past or whether they get their edge from modern sports technology.

Speed skating

Steve heads out to Calgary Alberta to meet with speedskater Christine Nesbitt, a world and Olympic champion. Will she be able to beat legendary speedskater Inga Artamanova? Gear makes a difference, and Steve discovers that modern advances in skate design and artificial ice have made speedskaters faster than ever. Christine steps up to the challenge wearing 1960s vintage gear.  She finds it difficult at first but adapts quickly. In an exciting race against a digital avatar of Inga Artamanova, the outcome is a photo finish.

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Bobsled

Next, Steve goes to St. Moritz, home to the world’s oldest bobsled run. He meets champion bobsledders Max Arndt and Alex Rodiger and shows them footage of the legendary Swiss bobsled team of Felix Endrich and Fritz Waller. Steve challenges Max and Alex to race the same course at St. Moritz using a vintage bobsled from the 1940s to see if they can beat the Endrich-Waller record. Clad in vintage gear, Max and Alex race to beat the legendary team. Steve is impressed by their fast-paced run, but heavy snow on race day has handicapped our modern champions.

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Downhill Skiing

Steve then heads to the Kaunertal Glacier to meet Austrian ski champion, Manuel Feller. Steve wants to compare his speed to retired legendary skier Marc Girardelli, a challenge that both Manuel and Marc are up for. Ski conditions are always changing, depending on weather and the particular ski course. So this time Manuel and Marc will race head to head on the same course and on the same day. Manuel and Marc have different ski styles, so to further equalize the challenge both skiers will race twice, once in modern skis and then in the old 1980s equipment. In the end, the outcome is closer than either of them had predicted.

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Sit-Skiing

Not everyone skis the same way. Steve meets next with German Paralympic sit-skier Anna Schaffelhuber and asks her to race using an early model sit-ski. Anna's run in the old sit-ski is challenging because its design hasn’t been optimized for her disability like her modern sit-skis. Her second run in her custom sit-ski goes much better and her top speed and performance are impressive.

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Hockey

Steve’s last destination is Kelowna, BC, where he meets star NHL defenseman Shea Weber and draft-pick goalie Carter Hart, both modern hockey champions. Bobby Hull — the legendary Golden Jet — had a blistering slap shot that was said to have been clocked at 118.3 miles per hour. Steve challenges Shea Weber and Carter Hart to perform using vintage 1960s hockey equipment.The old leather goalie gear doesn’t offer nearly the protection that Carter is accustomed to and the wooden stick of Bobby Hull’s era presents Shea with major challenges. Even when Shea switches to a modern carbon fibre hockey stick he’s not able to come anywhere near the puck speed of the legend Bobby Hull. So they surmise what might be going on.

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MORE:
Today’s Hockey Players Are Big, Fast And Heavily Armoured — But They Weren’t Always
VR, Smart Clothing And Brain Games: New Tech Is Helping Athletes Smash Records

Through five different winter sports, Steve has been able to pit champions against legends to some surprising results. Whether using old or modern equipment, each athlete expresses the innate human drive to win, and in that determination champions and legends stand united together.

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