SAS analytics to help British Rowing go for gold at Rio 2016 and beyond

Analytics

by Michael Moore| 13 May 2014

High-performance data analysis will help identify the next generation of talent.

The future of British rowing appears to healthier than ever after the sport's governing body announced it had signed a new deal to introduce cutting-edge data analytics processes into its training.

British Rowing today announced a new partnership with business analytics leader SAS, which will see the organisation benefit from a wide range of advanced analytics technologies which it hope will help develop performance and preparation, identify and prevent injury issues, and improve the detection of grassroots talent.

Under the terms of the three-year deal, which cover include the Rio 2016 Olympics and the upcoming World Rowing Championships in Belgium this August, SAS will become the official analytics partner of British Rowing, the first such partnership in the sport's history.

The new joint venture follows an extremely successful London 2012 Olympics for British Rowing, where Great Britain topped the rowing medal table, but the body is now looking to repeat this performance in Rio, and even beyond that to both Tokyo 2020 and the 2024 Olympics too.

"Our mantra is all about 'making the boat go faster', Sir David Tanner, British Rowing's Performance Director said at a media event announcing the partnership in London today. "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."

SAS's predictive analytics will also play a major part in British Rowing's Start programme, which tracks and identifies raw talent at a young level. The programme, which located five of the ten Olympic rowing gold medallists from London 2012, is vital for continuing the bright future of British Rowing, said Tanner, who stated that it takes six or seven years to properly develop someone into an Olympian.

However, the new technology is not just about being able to visualise data, but also about looking at identifying any trends or issues in the British Rowing team's processes, according to Mark Wilkinson, SAS's UK & Ireland Managing Director.

"SAS has been doing this for over 30 years," he said. "We believe that what we've been helping companies do for 30 years is exactly what sporting bodies now need to achieve - it's all about margins of improvement."
Wilkinson admitted, however, that the size of the margins of improvement, often just tenths or hundredths of seconds, would be the biggest challenge in seeing the effects of the new technology.

A team from SAS have already begun processing the information contained in British Rowing's membership database and performance data archive, and will soon be able to identify or offer recommendations.

The data will also be used in order to identify and prevent injuries, in conjunction with British Rowing's existing partnership with the Berkshire Independent Hospital. Using SAS analytics technology in conjunction with the vast amounts of strength and conditioning data produced by the rowers, any potential issues can be identified and training and development regimes tweaked accordingly.

The partnership ushers in an exciting new era for British rowers, Tanner believes, and will do so for many years to come.
"This is not a solution for this year's World Championships," he said, "this is about getting minds open, looking at potential, and then going step by step to achieve this."

"We are a leading rowing nation in the world, but we know that others are not standing still."

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