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Millisecond master: Marius Sommer. Photo: Lena Nordlund/Sveriges Radio
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Once a competitor...Marius Sommer (L) with teammates after coming third in Snowboarding World Championships 1999. Photo: Arno Balzarin/TT

Researcher takes time out for snowboard team

"I've never competed against others, only myself."
3:04 min

Timing is crucial in life, we're told, and perhaps even more so in the world of sports. One researcher at Umeå University in northern Sweden, a former snowboarder, is discovering just how important. He will soon complete a doctorate on how better timing can make dramatic improvements in performance in sports such as golf and football. But before that, he's making time for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where he's working with the Swedish snowboard team.  

Marius Sommer is fast approaching the finishing line to obtain his PhD in Sports Psychology at Umeå University in northern Sweden.

He's conducting research into how millisecond improvements in timing substantially improves golfers' and footballers' performances.

Using a device similar to a metronome, Sommer monitors the effects of striking a golf ball or football at different times and suggests ways sportsmen and sportswomen can train to improve their timing and thus their performance.

His preparations for his doctorate have however been complicated somewhat by being recruited to the Swedish Olympic snowboard team to be a mental coach. Even though Sommer is originally from Norway, he couldn't resist the call.

Sommer says while of course it would be great if Norway does well, he doesn't know the current Norwegian competitors, and says he's now a lot tighter with members of the Swedish snowboard team such as Sven Torgen and Niklas Mattsson.

Sommer moved to Sweden from Norway at the end of the 90s, for love - and that love? Swedish singer song-writer Lisa Miskovsky.

Before he left Norway, Sommer was on the country's snowboard team, and was ranked number 6 in the world. In a move that may have left his snowboard buddies reeling, he then flipped over to the world to research.

But why?

Sommer says that research is an area where you also have to produce something, and it has to be of a certain quality to what you do, and that's certainly something that I brought with me from sport: to improve my

"In the research world, there's something that's referred to as the impact factor: I've never competed against other people, only myself, just like snowboarding, its a subjective sport - you can only compete against yourself. And that's my main piece of advice to the Swedish snowboarding team, and that is: focus on your performance," he says.

Sommer hopes that his findings will be used by sportsmen and women to improve their performance.

Sommer goes on to say that in June he'll be presenting some of his findings to football trainers and other researchers at a conference in Oregon.

Once he's completed his doctorate though, Sommer looks set to call time on his timing research - he says he's not sure how much longer he can put up with the metronome.

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