British Rowing targets more Olympic Gold with predictive analytics

British Rowing is boosting its analytics capabilities in a bid to top the medal table at 2016's Rio Olympics.


British Rowing is boosting its analytics capabilities in a bid to top the medal table at 2016's Rio Olympics.

The UK sport's governing body has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with analytics company SAS in a bid to improve training, predict potential problems and generally increase elite athlete's potential.

British Rowing is responsible for the training and development of rowers from grass roots level to high performance and Olympic athletes.

Predictive analytics will also play a huge part in British Rowing’s Start programme, which takes school children who may never have considered rowing and brings them to Olympic athlete level. SAS will analyse raw talent’s physical data to reveal potential stars and track their training to ensure they reach maximum level. Five out of the ten gold winners at London 2012 emerged through Start.

A 30-strong team from SAS have already begun processing the rowing membership database and performance data from spreadsheets and will begin to offer insight into training techniques as soon as possible. It will be hosted on the AWS cloud British Rowing use.

Sir David Tanner, performance director of the GB rowing team said: “I hope that they are going to come up with things we haven’t even thought of. This will challenge the coach’s’ thinking.”

“Performance is absolutely key to everything we do with the GB rowing team because on the international stage, small improvements are the difference between winning and losing. By partnering with SAS we now have the capacity for much more in-depth and speedy analysis of the rowers, allowing us and them to optimise every session. We are a leading rowing nation in the world, and topped the medal table in 2012, but we know that others are not standing still.”

Although one of the most succesful British sports teams, British Rowing has not used sophisticated data analysis prior to the partnership with SAS. A large membership database which could only pull out basic information, and disparate spreadsheets composed by bio-medical researchers meant that data could not be effectively utilised for maximum performance results.

Injury prediction is an important aspect of the SAS Visual Analytics tool the team are using. Olympic medallist Greg Searle believes that SAS could have revealed a weakness in his left side core strength and his coaches may have been able to modify his training regime – eliminating the risk of injury.

SAS analytics will also play an important role in managing the data needed to secure funding from UK sport – freeing up staff’s time to work more effectively on “making the boat go faster,”, Sir Tanner said.

SAS has placed their graduate analysts on the project, to allow better integration with the rowing team so they learn more about specific rowers' training needs. SAS’ headquarters are situated just 8 miles from British Rowing’s training centre. 

SAS is in the middle of its data scientist's competition, a university initiative to increase home-grown talent in the data science field.

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