Matt Parker

The Moment

2012 Summer Olympics in London – British cycling team brings home an unprecedented eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

The Unseen Path

The title “Head of Marginal Gains” might not sound impressive, but on UK sports teams this is the guy whose attention to detail is what wins games, races, and medals. In the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics, the title belonged to Matt Parker, a then-32-year-old sports scientist with a reputation for never being satisfied. To shave crucial seconds off of race times — not only winning the British cycling team Olympic medals, but also helping them to break a total of eight world records during his four-year stint — Parker ran a team of 15 and set up a total of 28 performance-testing projects for the 2012 Olympic team in the two years leading up to the London Olympics. Meticulous in the planning, execution, and analysis of these experiments, Parker tested everything from sleep patterns to mattresses to the heated shorts the team eventually became known for. In addition to the famous “hotpants,” Parker got the team sleeping on hypoallergenic mattresses, consuming large quantities of fish oil and Montmorency cherries (their high antioxidant content helped muscles recover more quickly), and collecting both video and on-bike data.

One area of focus, what Parker termed “Project Golden Hour,” relied on key data from the 2008 Beijing Olympics: that there tended to be about one hour between the semi-finals and finals of cycling events. So Parker set about finding ways to maximize recovery time in that hour. The result? Cyclists on the 2012 British team were the only ones to log faster circuits in their finals than their semi-finals.

Parker’s results were so impressive that in 2013 the English rugby team recruited him. There, he’s been working his magic again — although the secrets of marginal gains are tightly kept, Parker has admitted to having the team train at night to be better prepared for evening games, partnering with a nearby pharmaceutical company (GlaxoSmithKline) to test supplements and energy drinks, and conducting a thorough evaluation of how Team England sweats, in order to optimize hydration and recovery during games. In the lead-up to the UK-hosted World Cup in 2015, Parker is intent on finding and tweaking the details that will make the difference between winning games and winning championships.

Our Heroes

Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen

1911 – Antarctica

Roald Amundsen successfully reaches the geographic South Pole.
Cameron

Cameron

1984 – The Terminator

The movie grosses $38 million and launches the career of its 29 year-old director.
Michael Collins

Michael Collins

1969 – Our Moon

Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin are the first humans to set foot on the moon.
Jacques Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau

1943 – The French Riviera

Jacques Cousteau wades into the Mediterranean, wearing flippers and the world’s first scuba device.
Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin

1953 – London

Rosalind Franklin invents the X-ray techniques that lead to the discover of the double helix model of DNA.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

1944 – Harvard

Computer pioneer Grace Hopper invents the first compiler for a computer programming language.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

1942 – Hollywood

Actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr develops the frequency hopping communications technology behind GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth

Matt Parker

Matt Parker

2012 – London Olympics

Matt Parker utilizes strategic training methods and disciplines which results in 8 gold medals.
Malcolm McLean

Malcolm McLean

1956 – Houston

Malcolm McLean’s Ideal X tanker makes its maiden voyage.
Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

1893 – World Fair, Chicago

Tesla wows the crowd with his Tesla Coil, including wireless lighting and his induction motor.
Vivien Thomas

Vivien Thomas

1944 – Baltimore

Vivien Thomas develops the first surgical procedure used to treat blue baby syndrome.

Wright Brothers

Wright Brothers

1903 – North Carolina

The iconic flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903 as the first manned aircraft at Kitty Hawk.