Speed skating goes high-tech at Calgary's Oval
Computer-based skate sharpening device will be unveiled this spring
A new computer-based skate sharpening device is set to be unveiled at the Olympic Oval that will help give speed skaters in Calgary an edge.
Currently, the machine used at the Olympic Oval Skate Shop has a metal template. All fine tuning is then done by hand. Through a partnership with the Univerity of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering and Olympic Oval skate technicians, new technology has been developed to help customize the sharpening process.
"Right now what we have is basically a copy machine. So we have a template that's already been created and off of that template, it will copy, say, a 22-metre radius onto a speed skate blade," said James Monson, the co-ordinator of the Olympic Oval Skate Shop.
"The problem with that is that it's older technology and then what comes out when we use our measuring equipment is not very accurate. Its got lots of waves in it."
In an attempt to give speed skaters here an edge, Monson said the Oval turned to some of the U of C's brightest minds, enlisting the Schulich School of Engineering to build a specialized machine.
"Instead of taking the template and copying it, on a computer file we can create whatever template we want and then just cut that template straight to the blade. So, if somebody wants a specific rocker its no longer a major issue we just make all of the modifications on a file and then copy that to the blade," said Monson.
The difference between winning or losing
The new technology will be available to Oval club athletes, national team members and Olympic team athletes. The Oval's Don McSwiney says the customized sharpening could help give athletes an edge.
"Speed skating is a sport of milliseconds. It's a sport where one 100th of a second can mean the difference between getting a medal and finishing off the podium, so when you come down to skate blades, the slightest details matter," said McSwiney.
Martin Corbett, a 22-year-old speed skater who trains at the Oval, says any bit of fine tuning helps.
"You have to have a really strong base, but once everybody can get a strong base and then its the fine tuning after that that kind of gives you the extra 10ths," said Corbett.
The new machine will be ready for use in spring 2014.