Today's Wimbledon men's singles final will pit two of the world's fittest sportsmen against each other in a battle of power, speed, endurance and flexibility. Hard scientific facts graphically show the growing chasm in the physical accomplishments of the world's top athletes compared with the rest of us. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will each generate an estimated 400 watts of energy every time they play a stroke, according to sport scientists.
Modern tennis has become a dynamic athletic pursuit where success is an elusive alchemical mixture of technical ability, tactical acuity and first-rate physical fitness.
The world's top cyclists competing in today's second stage of the Tour de France will generate similar amounts of power per pedal revolution riding up the alpine mountain sections or attempting a breakaway from the peloton, according to David Gordon Wilson, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and author of Bicycling Science. The average person riding a bicycle and working as hard as possible puts out 150 to 200 watts, he says.
Unsurprisingly, cyclists, including Britain's Bradley Wiggins, through meticulous preparation and arduous training, have a heart capacity 30 per cent greater than that of an ordinary male rider. Studies have shown the heart rate of top-class riders is half as fast at rest, and their lungs are a third bigger in volume than mere mortals'.
Wiggins hopes to reprise the dizzy heights of 2009 when he came fourth in the tour. Today riders face a team trial, a mere jaunt at 23km (14miles).
The contrast between elite athletes and the rest was demonstrated in Hamburg last night by the two pugilists trying to unify boxing's heavyweight titles. Britain's David Haye stepped into the ring at a trim 15st 3lb seeking to dethrone Wladimir Klitschko, who at 6ft 6.5in is no strippling. A true measure of their power can be gauged by Swansea University calculations that one top-class heavyweight's punch applied the equivalent force as, for instance, something like a 3.5 tonne truck.
"Even the difference between people who think they're good athletes and really good athletes is fantastic,"Dr Wilson said.
Additional reporting by Otis Ingrams
- More about:
- Higher Education
- Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
- University Of The Arts London