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How big data can help deliver Olympic success

My half marathon too

Jamie Botham of Merkle looks at the impact of monitoring and tracking performance data in sport, exercise and athletics.

Most of my friends and colleagues are aware and are likely getting bored of hearing, that I am training for a half marathon and (fingers crossed) a full marathon over the coming months.

So I thought what a great opportunity to tell everyone again…

Tracking exactly how long to Hold the Line Barry

Since starting training I have become hooked on apps such as Strava, MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal, tracking countless useful (or useless, depends on your view) pieces of information about how I’m doing.

One example is how long it takes to run ‘Hold the line Barry!’; a specific stretch of road near my house. I can then compare my time against the performance of people I’ve never met, for some much-needed encouragement next time I decide to head in Barry’s direction. I can also track my average pace, total distance covered each week, my elevation gain, split pace and so on. All of which I am convinced will help me run that bit faster on September 25th.

Using data to help set Olympic medal goals

Seeing all of this fitness data has got me thinking, in the wake of Team GB’s success at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which athletes are using data to help win that all-important Olympic Gold medal:

  • Team GB’s Boxers – ‘iBoxer’ is a piece of software that has helped the boxing team analyse potential threats from opponents and areas of opportunity to get that all important competitive edge.
  • Cycling – As bikes are becoming almost 100% efficient, there is renewed focus on data. USA cyclists use augmented reality glasses so they can receive real-time data collected from bike sensors, to help train harder than ever before.


  • Rowing Team – Team GB are on the path to creating models that allow the team to see how previous winners performed at various ages of their career, how much they lift, their performance in the boat, to help with talent identification and tracking.


Easier to track data, training still harder

Using Strava and MapMyRun may not win me Olympic Gold it’s true, but what’s clear is that data and analysis can be applied to a whole host of different industries including sport and athletics with potentially huge benefits and rewards. Data might be what gets Team GB even more Golds at the next Olympics in Tokyo… and it might be what gets me over that finish line.