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Swansea technology helps power top British athletes to Tokyo success

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British athletes in Tokyo, including top medal winners, used wearable technology designed by Swansea University experts, with a printed carbon ink heater to keep their muscles warm before competing.

To ensure the concept garments were suitable for elite sport, a Swansea team made up of experts from the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC) and Applied Sports, Technology Exercise and Medicine (A-STEM) collaborated with the English Institute of Sport (EIS), Haydale, Screentec and Newbury Electronics.

Maintaining muscle temperature at a constant level on the day of competition can improve an athlete’s performance, research by the A-STEM team has shown. At the level of elite sport, where the margins are so fine, the slightest boost in performance can mean the difference between winning and losing.

The problem is how to keep an athlete’s muscles warm right up until the last minute. This is where the WCPC team and the other collaborators’ technical ingenuity came in.

The WCPC invented a printed flexible heater using carbon-based stretchable graphene ink that can be directly attached to fabric. The idea grew out of researcher Andrew Claypole’s project as a student at Swansea University’s Materials and Manufacturing Academy. He developed flexible carbon and silver inks to create heaters that could be directly attached to stretchable fabrics.

Dr James Claypole from the WCPC explains some of the technical challenges involved: “The stretchable garments had to be lightweight not to impede movement, machine washable, waterproof, and run from a small battery. This required custom electronics and control systems, a method of integrating the panels into the garment, and a means of connecting the soft, flat printed heaters to conventional electronics.”

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Despite these challenges, the Swansea team, along with the other collaborators, succeeded in developing a working heated garment. The work was supported by the Welsh Government’s SMART Expertise programme, as well as the EIS. A-STEM researchers Dr Neil Bezodis, Dr Louise Burnie and Professor Liam Kilduff all work closely with EIS on elite athlete performance issues.

Dr Neil Bezodis from A-STEM, research lead for the project, said: “This is an excellent example of interdisciplinary research combining expertise from across Swansea University to develop an innovative solution that can enhance the impact on a real-world performance issue”.

Dr Matt Parker, Director of Performance Innovation for EIS, said:  “It is great to see the dedication and hard work of the whole team bring to reality garments that have been used by British athletes. This is something we will look to build on for future events.”

Welsh Government Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support this collaborative project which has resulted in making a difference to an athlete’s performance at the highest level. Congratulations to all involved.”

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(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Cycling

Minister announces £50m investment to encourage cycle use

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Getting people out of cars and on to bikes is the aim of a £50m investment announced by Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters.

Speaking on a visit to Cardiff-based cycling charity Pedal Power, the Deputy Minister said the money would fund cycling routes and new facilities right across Wales.

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Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “This is a substantial investment and part of our commitment to making cycling easier so people cut the amount of journeys they take by car and travel in a way that is better for our planet.

“Getting people out of cars for short journeys and encouraging them to walk or cycle instead is a huge challenge for us, but one that has to be met if we are to reach our net zero carbon emission target by 2050.

“We need to make sure that we have the right infrastructure and routes in place so that people have the choice of cycling for their everyday journeys – we need to make the right thing to do, the easy thing to do.”

One organisation that is benefiting from this investment is Pedal Power in South Wales.

As part of a series of Welsh Government e-bike pilot schemes, the cycling charity received £0.21m for its ‘See Cycling Differently’ project which is aimed at increasing the inclusivity of cycling by offering a range of e-cycles.

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Thanks to the money received the charity has expanded its e-cycle fleet and is encouraging its users to cycle more.  

Jeff Mayle, Pedal Power use and Deputy Minister Lee Waters

Director of Pedal Power, Cardiff, Sian Donovan said: “Cycling is a fantastic way for everyone – all ages and abilities – to have fun, gain more independence and enjoy a sense of freedom which we know has provided a lifeline to many during the pandemic.

“We were delighted to receive funding from the Welsh Government to help us to continue to remove barriers to cycling so that it can be truly accessible and inclusive for all.”

As part of the investment announced today, all local authorities will receive a minimum of £500k with additional allocations having been awarded based on the outcome of a competitive application process.

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Carmarthenshire

Women’s Tour of Britain returns to Carmarthenshire

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The countdown is on before the world’s top women riders will race through Carmarthenshire as part of the Women’s Tour of Britain.

Some 108 cyclists will race through the County to the finishing line on top of the Black Mountain between Llangadog and Brynamman as part of the stage five event on Friday, June 10.

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The route will be starting from Pembrey Country Park at 10.45am and riders competing for the title will go through Pinged, Carway, Pontyberem, Horeb, Llansawel, and Llangadog.

A rolling road closure will take place along the 65-mile route which will come into action at 10.45am until 1.50pm.

Roads will be re-opened once the cyclists have passed through. A full road closure will be in place over the Black Mountain from 5am-5pm.

The event will be broadcast on ITV4 and across Europe with a helicopter camera crew following the race.

The Women’s Tour departs on Monday, June 6, and coincides with the final day of a four-day Bank Holiday weekend in the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The race will culminate with a prestigious finale six days later on Saturday, June 11.

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Pembrey Country Park previously hosted the Grand Départ of the men’s Tour of Britain as well as the overall finish of the Women’s Tour in 2019.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters said: “We are thrilled that we have again been chosen to host this top cycling event. Previous years have brought an immediate economic boost to the tourism sector as well as providing a great deal of positive media coverage.”

(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Sport

West Wales accountancy firm sponsors local triathlete in his bid to become a champion Ironman

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Accountancy firm Ashmole & Co are to sponsor local tri-athlete Andrew Horsfall-Turner this year as he aims to fulfil his dream of becoming the first British professional male to win at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Andrew, from Swansea, is part of a new generation of up-and-coming Ironman athletes who are ready to challenge the status quo and change the dynamics of the event. He took up Triathlon in 2018 after competing as an elite swimmer for many years. In his first Ironman competition, in 2019 he qualified for Kona as an Age Group athlete.

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Andrew in training

Jim Cornock, Partner with Ashmole & Co and an Ironman himself said, “It is a pleasure to be able to sponsor Andrew in his bid to become a champion Ironman. It is a fantastic achievement to be able to compete at such a high level in such a demanding mixture of events and we wish him all the luck with his forthcoming championships. As a local business we are always happy to support local sports teams and individuals to help them achieve their goals.”

Last year Andrew took on the Outlaw Triathlon events, the first in June at Outlaw Half Nottingham, he qualified for his Professional Racing License. He went on to break the Ironman Distance Welsh Record when winning Outlaw Full in July.

In 2022 Andrew looks to take on the Professional Ironman circuit where the aspiration is to gain qualification to the Ironman World Championships. Within the next five years he aims to contend for the Ironman World Championships title.

Andrew said, “I am so grateful to Ashmole & Co for supporting me. Without sponsorship it is impossible to compete at this level. It would be great to get the backing of other local companies looking to support an athlete as well. Please follow my journey towards an Ironman title on Instagram.”

Andrew will also be competing in the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea triathlon will take place on Sunday, August 7, 2022.

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Athletes participating in IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea will take on a 1.2-mile (1.9km) swim at the Prince of Wales Dock before cycling a one-loop 56-mile (90km) bike course.

Athletes will cycle through the Mumbles along roads that hug the Gower’s coastal clifftops before cycling out through Rural Swansea before heading back along Swansea Bay into the city.

From here they will return to Swansea as they prepare for transition in the Maritime Quarter beside the Rive Tawe.

Lastly, athletes will take on a 13.1-mile (21.1km) two loop run course which takes them from the city centre, out past the new eye-catching gold-coloured Swansea Arena, towards Mumbles before heading back towards the finish line at the Marina.

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