March 2022, Articles

Adam Hall’s Virtual Reality

With COVID-19 ruling out overseas travel in 2020 and 2021, Para alpine skier Adam Hall has turned to a virtual reality facility in Wānaka to familiarise himself with the slopes of Yanqing, where he will compete in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

Working closely with HPSNZ Performance and Technique Analyst Dr Cameron Ross, Adam has been able to prepare for exactly what he will face in Beijing, thanks to the wonders of virtual reality (VR).

Adam is a two-time Paralympic gold medalist. He won his first gold in the men’s Standing Slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Games and a second in the same event in PyeongChang in 2018, where he also picked up a bronze in the Super Combined.

But ahead of this year’s Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing COVID-19 has made preparation more challenging than ever, prompting Cameron and Adam to think outside the box and make use of VR.

Developers from the University of Canterbury’s HITLab (Human Interface Technology Lab) have used footage from China to create a VR para-alpine course that is as realistic as possible.

“The topography is what the Paralympians will see when they get to Beijing,” Cameron says.

With the VR course built, Cameron says Adam’s training has included regular stints at a local VR facility in Wānaka.

“They’ve got harnesses that we can put Adam into so that he is able to closely mimic the movements he’ll be using on the hill. That combined with the VR footage gives him the most realistic VR experience possible to prepare for the Games.”

Cameron explains that when the athletes get on course in Beijing, they only have one inspection before their race.

“VR has really allowed them to get familiar with the terrain before they get over to China and that is essentially a competitive advantage that will give them confidence in the start gate.”

Adam himself describes the VR work as absolutely amazing and a completely different ball game.

“It has given everybody a huge amount of confidence and self-belief with knowing and understanding the hill, the conditions, and what essentially we are going to have in front of us,” he says.