Picture this scenario, but don't peek too closely: Ben Smith comes off the field at halftime during a World Cup match, goes to his own personal, portable urinal and, well, you know. The sensors send his physiological information straight to the mobile app the team trainer has. It tells the All Black staffer that Smith's numbers look great, but his sodium levels could do with a boost. The appropriate drink is concocted and consumed. All this is done within a minute or two. Smith's superpowers are restored.

A bit far-fetched, perhaps? Like something out of a Christopher Nolan movie?

Not at all according to Mounir Zok, the world-leading sports technology expert here this week for a biomechanics conference at AUT.

The Lebanese born-and-raised biomedical engineer who has worked for the US Olympic committee gave a keynote address titled, "The rise of the super-athletes and why there is no turning back." He followed by giving the Herald a further peak into the future of sport and role technology will play.


Zok believes integrated technology holds the key to sports next advances; the search for those elusive one per cent gains that advance athletes and teams from the middle of the pack to the front will all be predicated upon technological advances.

The big sports drink companies, he said, were developing drink bottles and portable urinals that could relay real-time physiology data to coaches. High-tech firms were well down the route of developing smart textiles that could feed information immediately to smartphones to demonstrate how bodies were reacting to their environment.

While an endurance athlete is more likely to get a benefit from the sort of technology discussed than an in-match All Black would, what can't be denied is that teams with big budgets are goign to extreme length to find those tyrpes of marginal gains.

Listening to Zok talk you get a sense that the paradigm of what we imagined sporting success should look like is changing. The 10 per cent inspiration, 90 per cent perspiration mantra looks ye olde quaint. He has a saying he is fond of that as the butterfly can never again be a caterpillar, those that have used smart technology to get better can never go back to instinctive training.

"There is a shift towards smart training," Zok says. "The athletes that train smarter in the future are the ones who are going to benefit more from the body machine they have.

"The days of training rocky-style, you know, are behind us. We have been training as fast as we can, trying to guess what is happening to the athlete's body, but thanks to the evolution we have seen on the tech markets in the past four to five years, we are starting to tune into what our bodies have been trying to tell us for the past thousands upon thousands of years."

Technology will help break down the silos that often inhibit the modern athlete. Whereas all an athlete's training, medical, psychological and nutritional data have involved their own chains of decision-making, technology can eradicate that.

"It empowers the decision makers to look at the complex and complete profile of the athlete to determine what is the best course of action," Zok says.


"Our bodies try to communicate lots of information but we never been able to key into what our body is trying to tell us; today we can.

"In sports we have been used to thinking about measuring athlete's physiology in discreet times and moments. We had to prick fingers or earlobes to get a blood samples to measure biometrics – today there are attempts to create non-invasive, continuous, real-time monitoring.

"Maybe we're not at the accuracy stage we need to be at, but it's just a matter of time before we get there."

If this wearable and Internet of Things-type technology is prohibitively expensive and available only to a select few, is it actually fair? It is a philosophical question Zok has pondered, though ultimately that is for international sports organisations to determine.

"We will be hearing more and more moving forward the new term tech doping," he says. "It's going to be coming our way [but] I'm a firm believer in technology as an asset and to promote clean sport and to help athletes make better decisions."

There is the fundamental question of human capability that also must be addressed. Surely we are reaching a point where the limits of the human body are finite? You cannot, for example, run the 100m in 8 seconds whether you have a multibillion dollar tech budget or a handheld stopwatch.

"We are going have to look at that question through a different lens," Zok says. "Are we looking at the human body running in its naked form? Or are we looking at the human body running with some assets on it, like a pair of shoes, pair of socks, pants and shirt?"

To bolster his point, Zok referenced Nike's Breaking2 project that, with Kenyan Eliud Kichoge all kitted out, fell just 25s short of what was once seen as a ludicrous concept: a sub-two-hour marathon.

"Through seamless, portable almost invisible technology that we have today," Zok says, "we are re-setting our knowledge regarding the capabilities of us as human beings."