Plus Advent Calendar Door #14: Sporty sporty sporty sport

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Here at Plus we were completely taken by surprise with just how exciting London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games were! Whether it was marvelling at the architecture, developing new strategies or equipment or keeping score, there was an application of maths providing those precious incremental advances that made all the difference. Here are our favourite moments from our Olympic and Paralympic calendars.

Gearing up for gold — Inspired by Sara Storey's phenomenal gold medal we calculate whether we, and our bikes, have what it takes to triumph in our newfound quest for speed!

Racing for new records — Wheelchair racing is one of the most exciting disciplines in the Paralympics. And it's not just a wheel-based equivalent of Olympic racing: John D. Barrow, mathematician, cosmologist and prolific popular science writer, has spotted an important difference.

No limits for Usain — Usain Bolt is determined to beat his record and run the 100m in 9.4 seconds. But what does mathematics have to say about this quest? Is there an ultimate limit which no runner can possibly surpass? If there is one, where would such a limit lie? For instance, is there a sub 9 second record in the offing?

Horses for courses — It's a great day for individual dressage today with the Grand Prix freestyle test taking place in Greenwich Park. It's amazing how those horses can perform elegant and complicated movements without getting their legs in a muddle. Coming to think of it, it's amazing that they can even go through their innate gaits without getting their legs in a muddle, given that there's four of them and they are very long. And what about animals who've got even more legs?

Rowing has its moments — The men's lightweight fours and the women's eights are going to compete for medals today, but are they sitting in the right place? Usually you expect to find rowers positioned in a symmetrical fashion, alternately right-left, right-left as you go from one end of the boat to the other. However, the regularity of the rower's positions hides a significant asymmetry that affects the way the boat will move through the water.

You can find lots more excellent material on the maths behind sports in the MMP Sportal!

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