“Data is really important in my sport as it's such a technical event,” says British Athletics long jumper Lorraine Ugen. “There are so many things you can do to improve your strength, your stride length, or speed down the runway.”
This is echoed by British Athletics high jumper Morgan Lake. “It's all the small, 1% changes that can make a big difference.”
Earlier in the year, both athletes were training up to six times per week in an effort to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, which have now been postponed until 2021. Data analysis provided valuable insight into their technique, strength and conditioning. For example, they used a force plate to measure the power output when doing a vertical jump and timing gates to track their sprinting speed. Lorraine has also used software that tracks her stride length so her coach, Dwight Phillips, can analyse what’s causing any inconsistencies.
“We can then work on whether it's a hamstring or a quad or something that needs strengthening so I can be more powerful and equal in my stride,” she says.
In the drive to improve themselves, Morgan and Lorraine can both identify specific aspects of their technique where data analysis could have a positive impact.
Morgan is curious about the best angle for take off in the high jump so she’s not too close or too far away from the bar. “When you get in a good position, in less technical terms you just ‘pop up’,” she says. “It’s about working out where that sweet spot is.”
For Lorraine, it would be to work out the optimum height she should jump that will then allow her to travel the furthest.
“Is there a relationship between how high you go and how far you jump? Can you go too high?”
But regardless of what aspect of her technique is under the microscope, Lorraine says that greater access to data is always beneficial for elite athletes.
“It means you can pinpoint where your weaknesses are and where your strengths are, compare between the years and see what was allowing you to excel or holding you back.”
The competitive advantage that comes from data analysis is the reason British Athletics is working with PwC. The partnership provides coaches and athletes with the insights that help them move their performance to the next level.
For example, Morgan and her coach, Fuzz Caan, are keen to better understand the relationship between her performances in training and competition. “The Muller Grand Prix in Glasgow was probably the best I’ve ever felt physically and the springiest I’ve felt, but I jumped 10cm less than I was hoping to, which shows there are technical elements I am not getting,” says Morgan. “But if you looked at my data and all my power data, then I have gone up a lot. There’s a gap between where I am physically and where I am technically.”
Understanding these variables is key to PwC’s work with British Athletics. We've designed a data model which tracks the many different actions and interventions you can make to an athlete’s diet, routine, rest, training schedule, etc, and then predicts the likely impact if the coach and athlete were to make adjustments.
As our partnership with British Athletics develops, both Morgan and Lorraine could get greater insight into what helps them jump higher and further, which will help the team move towards its overarching goal of winning more medals at major championships.
"There’s a gap between where I am physically and where I am technically.”