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University puts Real Madrid superstar through his paces

Academics from the University of Chichester tested Portugeuse football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to the limit for a Sky Sports documentary.

Dr Neal Smith, lecturer in Sports Science, Zoe Wimshurst, Sports Science Support Officer, and Russell Peters, Sports Science Technician, flew out to Madrid, Spain in order to carry out a series of tests on Ronaldo, with the aim of discovering what makes him one of the best players in the world.

The team spent five hours in a film studio decked out with AstroTurf performing tests on the Portuguese international, assessing his sprinting and free-kick taking amongst other attributes.

Neal explains: “We had a camera operating at 300 frames per second taking footage of Ronaldo kicking a ball as hard as possible through a series of panes of glass. Using special Quintic analysis software, developed in conjunction with the University of Chichester, enabled us to measure ball speed, trajectory, and spin rate in each of the three rotational axes.”

In collaboration with the International Cricket Council (ICC), the university has previously conducted experiments to assess the legality of bowling action in leading cricketers. Using the same technology, Neal was able to analyse Ronaldo's famous free-kick technique.

Neal said: “For the free-kick test, a series of 47 reflective markers were placed over key anatomical landmarks of Ronaldo's body to reconstruct his free-kick techniques. A specialist Vicon motion capture system was used, with 10 infra-red cameras operating at 500 images per second to track each of the body markers. Vicon then reconstructed a series of Ronaldo's curved and dipping free kicks and generated a computer animation of his skeleton, from which we could measure joint angles, angular velocities, and gain an indication of the ratio of foot to ball velocities.”