British Rowing boss Andy Parkinson believes brains not brawn will keep his team on top of the Olympic medal table in Tokyo next summer, as his sport embraces the 'Moneyball' revolution. Having partnered with US-based data analysis firm SAS in 2014, British Rowing is at the forefront of that trend as it tries to win its fourth straight Olympic rowing regatta.
But, as Parkinson explained to PA, the NGB is using data to propel the sport forward in all areas: "We're using SAS's help in three different ways: to learn more about our members so we can boost participation; to prepare our athletes better; and to make our boats go faster by getting the crews right.
"There's no question that using data better is helping us in terms of coaching, identifying talent and participation."
Parkinson added that data is now a key part of working out what British Rowing's 550 member clubs wanted, and in terms of elite rowing, data was now informing all the GB team's big decisions.
"We've also been considering athlete pathways. We know it takes six to eight years to create an Olympic champion once they've joined the programme so we want to know if we can understand better when to put them in, and into which boats. Can it be a better experience?
"Instead of just relying on hunches, we're using data about boat speed, the water conditions, climate, the athletes' physical condition, etc. It's about knowing how efficient our crews are on the water."
Parkinson said he thinks most of the major rowing nations have started to follow a more data-led approach but GB "may have an advantage because we've spent three or four years really cleaning up our data and centralising it so we can actually use it properly – SAS has been a big help there".
Looking ahead, the chief executive said it's all about Tokyo: "Our single focus is to qualify 14 boats for the Olympics and five for Paralympics. We had 11 boats in Rio and, if you translate our results at the World Cup in Poland this year, we'd have qualified nine for Tokyo. So we're in a good place for the Worlds but there's definitely work to do."