High altitude training not for all

High-altitude training is effective, but it's not suitable for every sport, nor every athlete.

That is the view of China Institute of Sports Sciences representative Dr Hong Ping, who attended the two-day Sports Science & Medicine Symposium in Singapore, which ended onFriday.

Speaking to The New Paper on Thursday at the Concorde Hotel, Dr Hong said: "Our institute has done a lot of research into the effects of high-altitude training and... studies on the training methods, height, duration, and duration of descent.

"None of our athletes have ever been injured during high-altitude training."

This training method came into the spotlight recently when Norwegian swimmer Alexander Dale Oen died during high-altitude training.

The 100m breaststroke world champion suffered a heart attack while training in Arizona and never recovered, prompting Japanese swimming officials to rethink their own plans.

Also, a recent Swiss medical study found no discernible benefits of such training, after setting out to explain why it increases an athlete's endurance by increasing his red blood cells.

Dr Hong explained that such high-altitude training combines the lack of oxygen at great heights with the anaerobic nature of sports to train an athlete's lungs, blood circulation and muscle function.

He said: "It would be beneficial for some events - such as middle- or long-distance running and swimming, and kayaking - and some athletes.

"Some athletes are more physically suited for such training than others. So there's no good or bad to it, just a matter of suitability, and our job is to find out which athletes and which events are suitable for such training."

While he was in town, Dr Hong also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) on Thursday.

The three-year collaboration will see an exchange of sports scientists from both countries and possible joint research projects.

SSI executive director Associate Professor Fabian Lim said: "One particular area that we want to learn from the Chinese sports system is the application of traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of injuries, this is the unique strength they have that other countries in the world would not have."

The SSI also signed an MOU with the Hong Kong Sports Institute, with similar partnerships with its South Korean and Japanese counterparts to be sealed soon.

Dr Hong said: "I read a report before that an athlete winning a gold medal can be attributed to more than 400 reasons, it is difficult to say how many of those reasons are down to sports science.

"But the level of sports science support an athlete gets will affect how many times he wins the gold medal - some just win a competition once but others win repeatedly.

"Sports science has a part to play in the latter."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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