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Alison O’Riordan coaching Invictus Games athletes alongside PhD research

World’s best seated throwers attended testing session where Alison undertook biomechanical analyses of their throwing action

Alison (third from left) with Dr Stuart Miller (far right), LSI master's students and 2017 World Para Athletics Championships silver medallist Erica Castano-Salazar

Alison O’Riordan is conducting her PhD research into the throwing mechanics of seated throwers - alongside her role as Athletics Throws Coach for Team UK at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto.

This world leading research – taking place at the London Sport Institute (LSI), Middlesex University - will aid in the future coaching of athletes with spinal cord and neurological conditions competing in the javelin, shotput, discus and club throw from a seated position.

As well as previously being Athletics Head Coach for Team UK at the London 2014 and Orlando 2016 Invictus Games, Alison has coached many athletes to Paralympic success both in Australia and the UK.  This means she is in the unique position to combine her wealth of practical experience with theoretical and scientific analysis and develop understanding of seated throwing mechanics.

One of the athletes throwing a javelin from the seated position as part of the research project

“My interest in researching seated throws began a number of years ago whilst working at the Australian Institute of Sport and was instigated by wanting to inform my own coaching practice, as there was and still is very little research in this area,” says Alison.

“I have been very fortunate that Middlesex University offered me a bursary to continue this research.  Working with Dr Stuart Miller and LSI MSc students has enabled some valuable data to be collected.

“It is a real pleasure to be part of the LSI team and I hope this research will be beneficial to many coaches and athletes in the future.”

Supervised by Dr Miller and assisted by MSc Sport and Exercise Science students from Middlesex, Alison invited the world’s best seated throwers to Lee Valley Athletics Centre to gather data for her research after the recent 2017 Para-Athletics World Championships in London.

“It’s been an excellent opportunity for our MSc Sport and Exercise Students to get involved in applied research that is not only novel, but working directly with world champions and world record holders,” Dr Stuart Miller, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science

Alison’s PhD is focused around understanding and optimising the throwing mechanics of seated throwers. Currently coaches and athletes tend to develop their own throwing techniques based on personal experience as there’s not much scientific data available.

The research involves 3D analysis using motion capture cameras along with a pressure mat that provides information on the athletes’ movements on the throwing frame and the forces they are applying.

Each athlete will also be given a personal biomechanical breakdown of their own throwing action so they can make further improvements to their training and technique.

Dr Miller says Alison’s work is a great example of integrating world-leading research into a real-life setting to make an immediate impact.

“Alison has developed a great ability to manage a full research team during her PhD studies, and is already presenting her research around the world to great response,” he says.

“The LSI has given Alison the freedom and guidance to attack her research from both the theoretical and applied angles, while input from different disciplines across the Faculty of Science and Technology has really pushed her research to a great level.”

Alison is currently coaching a squad of Paralympic and potential para-throwers, based at Lee Valley Athletics Centre. Among the squad is Middlesex University sports science student Stacie Gaston-Monerville, British record-holder in F57 discus and shotput.

Find out more about the London Sport Institute at Middlesex University

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