Dr. Marco Cardinale

1998: M.S.S. Sports Coaching

Dr. Marco Cardinale

Dr. Marco Cardinale has worked to prepare Great Britain’s Olympic athletes for the 2012 London Games as the head of sports science and research for the British Olympic Association.

Cardinale, who earned his master’s from the United States Sports Academy in 1998, also helped lead sports science activities in the 2008 Beijing and 2010 Vancouver Games.

A former team handball player, Cardinale admits being excited about the upcoming Summer Olympics scheduled July 27 to Aug. 12.

“This is the first time I will experience a ‘home’ Olympics,” he says. “The support of the nation is massive and it is brilliant to be involved in something like this as I believe it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

When he’s not involved in training elite athletes to push the human body to its limits, Cardinale’s main research work at the Olympic Medical Institute in London has been on the use of vibration as an exercise intervention, hormonal responses to exercise and neuromuscular adaptations to strength training. He is one of the editors of the new book, “Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principles and Practical Applications.”

He took time from his hectic Olympic schedule to talk to the Alumni Network about the future of elite athletes’ performances, the “In The Zone” initiative to teach young people about their bodies and his prediction for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Alumni Network: Tell us what you are focused on now with the Olympic athletes less than 50 days away from the Games?

Dr. Marco Cardinale: Our job on research and innovation is finished, all the relevant projects have been completed and the recommendations implemented by the sports. At this stage, our focus is to make sure we deliver some excellent services during the Olympic Games to make sure we support the athletes, the coaches and their support staff in creating the right environment for them to succeed, reducing the distractions, providing services to facilitate preparation for competition and recovery and regeneration between competitions and help in providing access to performance analysis data.

Alumni Network: What do you enjoy most about working and being involved with the Olympics?

Dr. Marco Cardinale: The Olympics are the pinnacle of the career, not only for athletes, but also for their coaches and their support staff. Serving people with such commitment and drive is an incredible honor but also a great responsibility. This is my third Olympic Games with Team GB (Great Britain), following the success of Beijing and Vancouver, and it is the first time I will experience a “home” Olympics. The support of the nation is massive and it is brilliant to be involved in something like this as I believe it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have worked with teams and athletes at the World Championships and European Championships before, but the Olympics are a completely different ballgame. The multisport environment, the media attention, the pressure, the distractions make the Olympic Games a unique environment. Every Olympic game is an emotional rollercoaster with athletes succeeding and some failing, with incredibly inspiring stories and sad ones. Most of all, it is the event everyone is looking at and being part of it is every time an amazing learning opportunity due to the diversity of sports and issues to be faced.

Alumni Network: Where do you think the biggest gains will come from in human performance? Are we at our peak already?

Dr. Marco Cardinale: The best is still to come. We are close to our peak, however, the biggest gains will come by improving our understanding of how to individualize training and nutritional regimes according not only to our genetic makeup but also to the way we “respond” to various stimuli. I can see a future where wearable technology, real-time data capturing and reporting will help coaches and support teams making evidence-based decisions on pretty much everything which can affect human performance. We have evolved a lot, but we are still limited by the quality and quantity of information we can collect and analyze.

Alumni Network: With all the stories out there about obesity in youth and adults, how do you feel the new “In the Zone” kit you helped develop? How can this help the average person?

Dr. Marco Cardinale: The “In The Zone” initiative was designed to teach young people about their bodies and how they function and how they are affected by exercise, diet, activity, etc. The tools developed were aimed at increasing awareness and curiosity also in science. I believe that by increasing awareness and curiosity we can also change behavior and initiatives like this one can inspire more people to make better choices when it comes to nutrition and physical activity. Athletes represent the extremes of people incredibly fit and dedicated, however, they can serve as in inspiration to understand more about our bodies and we should do more to educate the general public about the benefits of exercise, physical activity and healthy dietary choices.

Alumni Network: Any predictions on how the Great Britain team will do this Olympiad? Which events are you most interested in?

Dr. Marco Cardinale: If only I had a crystal ball! It is virtually impossible to predict medals considering how tiny the margins are these days. There is also no benefit in setting medal targets. Our aim is more medals in more sports than in over a century with the hope that this will inspire people to take on different sports. It is well documented that the home nation performs very well at the Olympics as the crowd and knowledge of the environment represent a home advantage so, having been at some test events, I can confirm that our crowd will be an incredible boost for our athletes and I am sure they will benefit from the support.

I love all Olympic sport, so I am interested in everything professionally and as a spectator. However, I have to confess a soft spot for Team Handball as it is the sport I played as an athlete and it is where I started my coaching and sports science career. Normally during the Olympics, I do not get to see much as I am working, but on the last day in the past I have managed to have some free time to watch the men’s Handball final. I hope I will be able to do it this year as well.