Tracing memories, tracking technology from 1982 – 2018

Professor David Thiel had just started an academic career at Griffith University when the 1982 Games arrived on campus.
Professor David Thiel had just started an academic career at Griffith University when the 1982 Games arrived on campus.

In 1982, as Robert de Castella was powering his way to gold through the streets of Brisbane and the Queen was visiting the Nathan campus, David Thiel was embarking on an academic career at Griffith University.

Getting to work in the early days meant presenting a special tag at a boom gate at the Kessels Road entrance at the bottom of the campus.

“Kessels Road was closed during the Games right up to Mains Road,” he says. “We were allowed on campus with a special tag. I was coming to work to research and to snoop.”

Campus growth

During that time he witnessed the growth of the campus and the development of a new building for the athletes’ accommodation. Nearby, at the northern end of the campus, another space was refurbished to provide the athletes with a games and entertainment area. “I remember the glittering disco ball and the flashing light.”

David, then a session teaching fellow, was also on campus — with his camera — for the colour and splendour of the formal welcoming ceremony as athletes from a host of different nations and territories moved in to their accommodation.

“I got a photo of (swimmer) Tracey Wickham and I remember walking behind (cyclist) Kenrick Tucker down the steps behind the library and thinking he had the biggest thighs I’d ever seen.

“When the Commonwealth Games actually started we couldn’t come on campus. Now I was seeing people on television I had been seeing on campus every day. I went to the track and field events one day to see (sprinter) Raelene Boyle.”

Full circle

Today, 36 years down the track, the world comes full circle for David Thiel this time with Griffith University at the heart of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games as its Official University Partner.

It’s a circle that also signals progress with Professor Thiel a world-respected authority on elite athlete monitoring at Griffith’s School of Engineering and the Built Environment. Again, he will have a special interest in the Games, not least from the perspective of sports technology and how it has evolved since the Games were last in Queensland.

“Athletes are now monitored 24/7 for movement, sleep, food, weight, etc. The technology has moved into commercially available products such as smart phones. The use of wearable technology in preparing athletes for competition is almost universal.”

Through his research at Griffith’s Nathan campus — where a new $60 million building for engineering teaching and research is under construction – Professor Thiel has been at the cutting edge of numerous advances in sports technology. He has explored the role of technology in the lives of elite athletes and the part it plays in diet, pre-competition training, recovery and minimising risk of injury.

Changing sport

He was a central figure in preparations for ISEA 2018 — Engineering of Sport, a major sports research event on the eve of GC2018.

The four-day conference was hosted by Griffith University in Brisbane from March 26-29 on behalf of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA) in association with Australian Sports Technologies Network.

The conference brings world-leading researchers, sports professionals and industry organisations together to present and explore the latest progress in design, mechanical, performance, analytics, textiles and wearables and how they are changing sport.

“We look behind innovations that are changing sports worldwide by the day, from football to racquet sports to the latest in para sports,” Professor Thiel says.

“Engineering and technology make valuable contributions to the ways we play, watch and compete in sport.”