Arguably the best climber in the world, Adam Ondra, lives in the Czech republic, even better: in my hometown. Many people around him, couple of climbing coaches and experts – and Adam himself – try to figure out what makes him the best. Is it his extremely mobile hips, as he suggests? Is it his strong fingers, perfect technique, or simply he just enjoys climbing more than the others? Is there a way to measure these at all?
To find the answer, we visited or contacted all the persons Adam considers important: his coach, his physical therapist, his parents, even his ballet master who – though he has never climbed – teaches him to precise his moves.
In the end, we partnered with the biomotor research lab team at Masaryk University. We used the 3D kinematic analysis known as a tool used in the making of the Gollum and Smaug characters. A challenge emerged as the cameras are usually used at fixed positions in the lab but we needed them to capture an athlete climbing a 16 meters high wall.
The lab staff helped us refit the system for capturing climbers. We captured two climbers: Adam Ondra and Štěpán Stráník, who, as a bouldering specialist, is stronger and his technique and joint mobility is then expected to be worse than Adam\’s. The experiment resulted in a model which showed skeleton and joint movements for both climbers.
The comparison of the models showed us the expected at first: Adam\’s hip mobility helps him move his gravity center closer to the wall. Later, a surprise came: while analyzing his moves closer, we discovered he frequently uses his unusually long neck to balance the weight. Once he has finished a movement he would tilt his head back using his head as a lever. As a result, his feet cling better to the wall.
We did our best to let the reader experience and understand the climber\’s movements. A part of the article is interactive, the reader can go through every move type and see the climber, the skeleton model and the position of his gravity center simultaneously.
What makes this project innovative?
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Source and methodology