Analytics, which revolutionized baseball and many other sports, has come to swimming.
The Australian swimming team returns home after the Tokyo Games with nine gold medals – its best performance at the Olympics, in part thanks to the switch to a new data analysis system aimed at improving athlete performance.
The ‘Dolphins’ were propelled to unprecedented success thanks to their women’s team, led by Emma McKeon, Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee mckeown, who has accumulated eight gold medals, including the 4x100m freestyle and medley relays.
McKeon completed the sprint doubles, winning the 50m and 100m freestyle, before winning two relay golds and surpassing Australians Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones to become the country’s most decorated Olympian with 11 medals.
Titmus beat his American rival Katie Ledecky in the 200m and 400m freestyle, and McKeown won the 100m and 200m backstroke titles, while Zac Chaumière-Cuisine won gold in the men’s 200 breaststroke.
Two years before arriving in Tokyo, Swimming Australia partnered with cloud computing platform Amazon Web Services (AWS) in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage by leveraging performance data more efficiently.
The move helped the Australian team improve on the country’s previous record of eight gold medals in Melbourne in 1956.
“In swimming, there isn’t really a central database for results,” Jess Corones, head of performance solutions at Swimming Australia, told Reuters.
“Normally we would have to go to four or five different websites to get a really good overall understanding of performance.
“What AWS allows us to do is automate that, because normally I would have to sit there with three different screens and manually pull this data out of web pages and enter it into Excel spreadsheets.”
The new approach has been a hit with athletes and coaches, allowing them to access AWS dashboards on their mobile devices and track their progress in real time.
“A lot of times,” Corones said, “they would come up to me and say, ‘Can we get this stuff out of Amazon and take a look at that stuff from Amazon?’
“I think they find it really helpful because they can form a plan around it, and it gives them a better understanding of what they’re trying to achieve.”
The data from Swimming Australia has been fed into a unified online repository called a “data lake,” used by the team for the first time at the Olympics to select relay teams and predict those of their rivals, among other things.
“We have a few apps that feed off the data lake,” Corones said. “It’s always a managerial decision, but (the data) provides more information to make the right decision when we pick the team and in what order to send them.
“The data has given coaches direction and allowed them to make evidence-based decisions about what they’re doing. So, rather than just guessing or guessing, the data is there to provide the evidence for their process. decision making.”
The success in Tokyo has been such that the management of Swimming Australia seems to be firmly committed to the new data-driven approach.
“I think the mind is really mind-boggling about what (the data lake) is capable of,” Corones added. “It’s just the foundation of what we do. It’s a relatively new thing for us in swimming, but the things we want to do with it in the future are just endless.”