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  • We've taken six of the world's top athletes,

  • to find out what it takes to make a true Olympian.

  • Now we're working, come on!

  • - Testing, analysing. - Dig deep, come on!

  • Getting under the skin

  • of an elite athlete.

  • As we push their bodies to the max.

  • (ANATOMY OF A BIATHLETE)

  • The physical demands of a biathlon

  • are really incredibly unique.

  • What you're asking an athlete to do

  • is operate at absolute maximum intensity,

  • and then, within seconds,

  • relax and concentrate in order to shoot.

  • Cardiovascular endurance

  • is absolutely fundamental,

  • but on top of that, you have to be incredibly strong.

  • There are huge uphills, there are big downhills,

  • which make it utterly unique.

  • Monika Hojnisz is one of Poland's

  • most famous sport stars.

  • She's a biathlon national champion,

  • a European Championship gold medallist,

  • and placed fifth in the mass-start event

  • at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.

  • Few sports put the human body through

  • such extremes as biathlon.

  • (MONIKA HOJNISZ, BIATHLETE)

  • Of course, overcoming your weaknesses is very important

  • in any sport. It's the only way to really fulfil your potential

  • and make the most of your abilities.

  • Monika has been skiing since she was old enough to walk,

  • and competing in biathlon from the age of 12.

  • She needs supreme endurance to reach the highest level

  • of her sport, but if she is to medal at Pyeongchang 2018,

  • she needs to excel in many other areas too -

  • strength, power, cardiac response.

  • To see just how unique Monika's anatomy really is,

  • we're working with Liverpool John Moores University

  • and its world-renowned School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

  • OK, if you swing your legs round to this side

  • and pop your head up that end for me, and just lie back.

  • Great, thank you.

  • The human body stores fat in two ways -

  • subcutaneously, below the surface of the skin,

  • and viscerally, around the internal organs.

  • A DEXA scan is the best way to analyse

  • Monika's anatomical make-up

  • and really see how she stacks up

  • against the competition.

  • An Olympic female hockey player

  • has a body-fat percentage of 14.7.

  • An elite marathon runner, only 10.5.

  • Monika's 12.8% puts her firmly in the upper tier

  • of female endurance athletes.

  • Monika is really interesting.

  • She's 170cm tall,

  • so she's not short,

  • but she's only weighing 49kg - incredibly light.

  • And she has an exceptionally low body-fat percentage

  • at 12.8% body fat.

  • Very, very low,

  • but exactly what is required,

  • because what she is, fundamentally,

  • is she is muscle.

  • When we're at training camp, every day is pretty similar.

  • Early exercise and then breakfast.

  • After that, "complex training"

  • which means shooting and skiing.

  • Then we have lunch

  • and, just as important, a nap and some rest.

  • When it's time to get up,

  • it's the second training session

  • of the day and then dinner.

  • That's kind of a typical day, it may seem monotonous

  • but that's life as a biathlete.

  • (DNYO)

  • This is a dynamometer test. Really, it's testing strength.

  • Now of course, Monika, at 49 kilos,

  • we don't expect her to have a huge strength output.

  • What we do expect, though,

  • is a very good strength-to-weight ratio.

  • The Dyno will show us just how much torque

  • Monika's hamstrings and quadriceps can really generate.

  • If she wants to make it to the podium in 2018,

  • she needs to look at every area of her anatomy

  • for those vital marginal gains.

  • OK, you ready? 3, 2, 1, push! Hard!

  • Hard as you can. And relax.

  • Push! Up! Up! Up! And push!

  • Push up!

  • And all the way.

  • Push! Hard as you can. Push! Up! Go!

  • And relax.

  • A typical Biathlete may have the build associated

  • with endurance events, but it takes strength and power

  • to ski and pole up to 15km

  • with a 4kg rifle on your back.

  • Right, Monika, now we're going to test the hamstring muscles

  • in the back of your leg.

  • For biathletes, there's a critical trade-off

  • between increased muscle mass and body weight.

  • The lighter Monika is, the less she has to carry

  • around the course, but she still needs muscle

  • for those uphill climbs.

  • She's only 49 kilos, and so therefore the strength

  • is not massive, but at 49 kilos the amount of force

  • she produces is exceptional.

  • The results for Monika's quadriceps,

  • combined with her hamstring strength, show she's producing

  • the same level of torque

  • you'd expect from a professional footballer.

  • Her ratio of hamstring-to-quad strength,

  • an indicator of resistance to injury,

  • is almost off the chart,

  • and explains why despite years of punishing competition

  • she has never missed a day's racing.

  • I know I need to work on my leg muscles

  • and I'm pushing really hard in this area.

  • I'm doing lots of specific strength training.

  • I know I've got more potential, and this is my main

  • physical goal for the year.

  • (CARDIO RECOVERY)

  • This heart-rate test is a really interesting test

  • because, to some extent, it personifies what biathlon is.

  • What we expect to see from Monika is whether

  • she's moving to a prone position,

  • in other words a lying position,

  • or a standing position,

  • is that she can control her physiology -

  • a very difficult thing to do - and bring that heart rate down

  • to optimise her shooting performance.

  • To understand the unique cardiac demands of biathlon,

  • imagine racing a Formula 1 car flat-out for ten laps

  • and then having to parallel-park it several times

  • before racing flat-out again.

  • That's pretty close to the control

  • Monika needs to exert over her body.

  • 3-2-1, go!

  • Sports scientist Sam Impey sends Monika

  • on a series of timed runs.

  • Nice, Monika, well done - keep that pace.

  • Pushing her heart rate to nearly 150 beats per minute.

  • OK, Monika, prone when you get in.

  • Top work, well done.

  • Then she has just 45 seconds to lower her heart rate.

  • Great effort, that!

  • The concentration and control required to hit five targets

  • barely 40mm in diameter and 50 metres away

  • is immense.

  • But try doing that after the equivalent

  • of running a four-minute mile.

  • If Monika is going to become truly elite,

  • she has to be able to shift gears literally in a heartbeat.

  • The pace is bang on there, Monika, well done,

  • really good stuff.

  • So, when you come in now, standing recovery.

  • Really good work, that. Well done. How are you feeling?

  • Good.

  • Monika's results show

  • that her cardiac-response conditioning

  • is truly remarkable, effectively reducing

  • her heart rate by half

  • following intense activity

  • to regain the composure necessary

  • to shoot at her optimum performance.

  • If you take, for example, the prone,

  • her heart rate before she started

  • was 140 beats per minute,

  • and within 45 seconds

  • it dropped below 70 beats per minute - exceptional.

  • You always face pressure in competition.

  • It's different in training where you're more relaxed.

  • Then you can control your breathing

  • and you shoot tens every time.

  • But in the Olympics, no matter how well you're prepared,

  • it's really hard to stop your emotions

  • affecting your body.

  • (UP CLOSE)

  • I always used to watch biathlon on TV,

  • even before I started training for the event.

  • And back then, just like today,

  • the King was and is Ole Einar Bjørndalen.

  • I think that his results, successes, determination

  • and what he achieved inspired everyone else around.

  • And for all of us kids back then,

  • our greatest motivation was to be just like him.

  • I finished fifth in mass start at the last games,

  • so I'm determined to do even better next time.

  • I'm trying to improve every area of my performance

  • and an Olympic medal would mean everything to me,

  • especially after so many years of sacrifice.

  • (VO2 MAX)

  • The VO2 max test is a measure of maximum aerobic capacity.

  • In other words, it's the ability

  • to uptake oxygen, consume oxygen and produce energy,

  • and the athlete simply has to hold on

  • for as long as they possibly can.

  • For Monika, there's no single test

  • that will demonstrate her physical ability

  • to reach the top of her sport

  • better than VO2 Max.

  • The highest recorded scores all belong to Nordic skiers,

  • like biathletes, so if Monika is going to prove herself

  • as a title contender, this is where it has to happen.

  • It will be a psychological

  • as much as a physical battle for Monika

  • to achieve her maximum performance,

  • to push herself all the way to the limits of her endurance.

  • Really good work, well done. Keep going.

  • Keep going, keep pushing.

  • Great stuff, 15 seconds and then we'll go up again.

  • A biathlete's anatomy is tailored beyond

  • anything else to endure.

  • In a typical Olympic Games,

  • they have to ski across multiple events,

  • nearly 60km of fast-changing,

  • punishing terrain over a two-week period,

  • with each race demanding maximum physical effort.

  • Great work, Monika. Well done, well done.

  • Come on, dig in, keep going, keep going.

  • Really nice, this. Really, really good effort.

  • Keep going. Keep pushing.

  • - 4, 3, 2, 1. - At 25, Monika is still

  • a few years from her peak endurance,

  • most female biathletes

  • don't achieve their maximum VO2 levels until they reach 30,

  • but will her scores see her closer

  • to the pinnacle of performance?

  • Great work, can I get you some water?

  • As well as Monika's VO2 max,

  • we've also measured her blood lactate levels -

  • her ability to push herself before the build-up

  • of lactic acid in her body prevents her going any further.

  • Her results proving just how well adapted she is

  • to sustained maximal effort.

  • But it's her VO2 max results that are truly astonishing

  • and really put her in a class of her own.

  • Monika's VO2 max - absolutely exceptional.

  • 66ml per kilogram per minute is enormous.

  • Interestingly enough, that's the same as Paula Radcliffe

  • when she broke the world marathon record.

  • I've worked in this field for three decades,

  • and it's probably one of the highest VO2 maxes

  • I've ever seen.

  • I think my stamina is my biggest advantage

  • and it has helped me achieve what I have in the sport.

  • I really rely on it.

  • Push! Up! Up! Up! Push!

  • To reach elite-level performance requires an athlete

  • to refine every aspect of their physiology.

  • For Monika that means not just the skills to shoot and ski,

  • but perfecting the anatomy to generate power,

  • optimise cardiac response, and exhibit supreme endurance.

  • She's delivered in the lab, now she has to deliver

  • where it really matters - in competition.

  • I've learned so much from this testing

  • and got some really helpful data.

  • A lot of the analysis has been new to me,

  • but I am determined to get my performance to the next level.