How data is helping British Athletics increase the chances of gold medal success

This is part one of a three-part insight series looking at how PwC and British Athletics are working together to inspire performance through data insights. We begin by looking at how athletes are using the data insights provided by PwC’s data and analytics team to improve their performance.

Successful athletes have to dedicate themselves to their sport, making big sacrifices in pursuit of glory. But at the elite level, tiny margins can make major differences - the difference between gold and silver.

Data analysis enables athletes and their coaches to identify those minor changes that can help them achieve major goals. The growing use of data in sport is well known, however not all athletes have access to the richness of data and the analytical skills required to drive continuous optimisations and maximise their potential.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - SEPTEMBER 22: Holly Bleasdale of the Great Britain & Northern Ireland Athletics team in action during the British Athletics Holding Camp on September 22, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Matt Lewis - British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)

"When I turned professional back in 2011, I don't remember ever collecting any data. As my career has progressed we've begun collecting more and more data. It's amazing the amount of information we're collecting everyday in training."

Holly Bradshaw British Athletics pole vaulter

"When I turned professional back in 2011, I don't remember ever collecting any data," said Holly Bradshaw, a British Athletics pole vaulter. "As my career has progressed we've begun collecting more and more data. It's amazing the amount of information we're collecting everyday in training."

The challenge now is to turn the wealth of available data into meaningful insights that can lead to improvements in performance. There’s a danger that a single data source taken in isolation can give a misleading view of an athlete's performance potential or the impact of a change in training regime, as it doesn't take into account other variables that might have an even bigger impact.

That’s why PwC’s data intelligence team is now working with British Athletics to build a unique platform that brings together a massive range of data sets - such as competition and training data, biomechanics, lifestyle data, and physiological data - in one place. It will give the athletes and their coaches access to a level of insight into their performance that they’ve never had before. For Holly, this could make all the difference as she seeks to improve on her fourth-place finish at the 2019 World Championships in Doha to win a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

This is because data analysis gives us the ability to spot trends, correlations and insights that the athlete may not feel and the coach may not be able to immediately see. For example, Holly and her coach want to use the platform to look at the complex relationship between her training intensity, associated performance gains and recovery. This involves the digitisation of a few years of training and performance data so that these may be integrated alongside biometrics such as heart rate variability, body mass and sleep quality. The resultant insights will help Holly’s coach to make better decisions on her training schedule; improving performance while maximising recovery and decreasing the risk of injury.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - SEPTEMBER 22: Holly Bleasdale of the Great Britain & Northern Ireland Athletics team in action during the British Athletics Holding Camp on September 22, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Matt Lewis - British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)

“I think a lot of athletes and coaches don't use data because it's confusing and it scares them. Whereas if it can be presented in the right way, it's so powerful. That's why I think this partnership is going to be great because so many athletes who don't use data can benefit from it massively. Having a platform where all those numbers come together from everywhere in one place will be game changing for athletes.”

Holly Bradshaw British Athletics pole vaulter

“I think a lot of athletes and coaches don't use data because it's confusing and it scares them,” said Holly. “Whereas if it can be presented in the right way, it's so powerful. That's why I think this partnership is going to be great because so many athletes who don't use data can benefit from it massively.

"Having a platform where all those numbers come together from everywhere in one place will be game changing for athletes.”

Our partnership with British Athletics is only just beginning, so the data intelligence capabilities will improve exponentially as we increase the breadth and richness of the data in our platform. This will give the athletes and their coaches the insights they need to drive tangible improvements in their performance and win more medals in more events.

Contact us

Alex Cooke 

Data Intelligence Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7891 150 219