This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Saturday 1 June 2024, 2.30pm to 3.45pm
  • Location: In-person only
    St Saviourgate York (Map)
  • Admission: Free admission, booking required

Event details

Ahead of the 2024 Olympics taking place in Paris this summer, join us for a panel discussion exploring elite sports.

Our experts, including double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, will consider questions including: How does science contribute to making athletes faster and stronger and to continue to break records? How much does talent contribute to success or can training and commitment create an elite athlete?

Speakers also include mathematician Amandine Aftalion of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, biomechanics expert Brian Hanley of Leeds Beckett University and psychologist Adam Nicholls of the University of Hull.

Come along and find out more about the biomechanics of sports such as running, the theory of optimal control within racing endurance, and how performance psychology has an impact both on and off the track.

This event is part of the Festival Focus ‘Driving Innovation’ presented in collaboration with the French Embassy in the UK. You may also be interested in the online event ‘Heritage and Technology’ which will take place on Saturday 7 June. 

Image credit: Olympic Rings - Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Book sales

You can buy copies of many of our speakers’ books from Fox Lane Books, a local independent bookseller and Festival partner. In some cases, author signed bookplates are available too. 

About the speakers

Professor Amandine Aftalion is a French mathematician. She is a CNRS senior scientist and graduated from École normale supérieure in Paris.  As a specialist of models coming from low temperature physics, she has given talks all over the world. More recently, she has used energy minimisation and motor control to optimise running performance and written papers aimed at coaches. She is the producer and director of one of the five best French YouTube channels for the promotion of mathematics, Videodimaths. She has just published a popular science book, Be a Champion: 40 Facts You Didn't Know About Sports and Science - a must read before the Olympics in Paris, which will help you watch sports through new eyes.

Dr Brian Hanley is a Reader in Sport and Exercise Biomechanics at Leeds Beckett University. His research is principally on the biomechanics of track and field athletes and the pacing profiles adopted by distance runners, with a particular focus on real-world data obtained in world-class competition. Brian led the scientific aspects of the Biomechanics Research Projects at the IAAF World Championships in London in 2017 and the IAAF World Indoor Championships the following year in Birmingham. Brian is the High Performance consultant for European Athletics and works extensively with national governing bodies such as British Athletics and Athletics Ireland. Over the past 20 years, Brian has provided biomechanical support to elite athletes from around the world in their preparation for championship racing.

Colonel Dame Kelly Holmes is a British icon and an inspiration. She joined the British Army at 17, serving for nearly ten years as a qualified HGV driver and Physical Training Instructor. In 1998, she was awarded an MBE in recognition of her services to the armed forces.  During a 12-year international career, Dame Kelly won multiple medals at Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic level, culminating in two Gold Medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics Games for the 800m and 1500m. This cemented her place in history as the first women ever in Great Britain to win two gold medals at the same games. She was honoured with a Damehood in 2005 for services to sport.

Today Dame Kelly is a global inspirational speaker and an award-winning author, as well as championing fitness, wellness and mental health. She is President of the charity she founded in 2008 - the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust - which supports disadvantaged young people using the unique skills of world-class athletes to engage, enable and empower. She won a Beacon award for philanthropy in 2017. In 2018, she was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment. Dame Kelly became the first person to be attached to a regular regiment as an Honorary Colonel which was required to be signed off by the Queen. She has received numerous honorary doctorates, including from the University of York in 2020.

Adam Nicholls is a Professor of Psychology within the School of Sport, Exercise, and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Hull. Adam’s research interests include, stress, coping, well-being, and the psycho-social factors that predict doping among athletes and how coach behaviour impacts doping. His research is supported by more than £1.5 million from funders such as the International Olympic Committee, the European Commission, and the World Anti-Doping Agency. He has published more than 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and written four books. His book, Psychology for Coaches: Theory and Practice is now on the third edition, and has been translated into Arabic and Hungarian. In addition to pursuing his own research interests, Adam regularly competes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and won silver at the 2021 British Open.


Entente Cordiale 120 Years University of York French Embassy Logo Institut Francais

Venue details

  • Wheelchair accessible