Members of the GB rowing team prepare for practice. (Image credit: Intersport images)
We recently met up with Paul Bennett, a member of the GB Rowing Team and current World Champion, and Laurie Miles, Head of Analytics for SAS UK & Ireland, who has been analyzing the team's data. They chatted about data, the life and mind of an elite sportsman, and uncovered some surprising things they have in common! Follow the discussion below.
You both have something in common – would you like to tell me what it is?
Paul Bennett: I wouldn’t quite say we are both data scientists, but Laurie is certainly a data scientist and I’m very interested in data science.
How did this interest come about?
Bennett: I have a previous educational background in maths and computer science, and this leads quite fluidly into a fascination with numbers and an interest in knowing what they can do professionally, commercially and privately in a sporting context. I’m an Olympian – well hopefully soon to be an Olympian – I currently row for the British national squad. This partnership between SAS and GB Rowing is a great opportunity to try and find ways of how numbers can help the dream of making more gold medals more possible.
Laurie, you are a data scientist? Tell us all about it.
Laurie Miles: I am. Right from an early age, I was always interested in maths and numbers. I have always been passionate about using maths to solve problems; be it from a business perspective or – as we are doing with the GB Rowing Team – from a sporting perspective.
Numbers have a beauty because they are consistent, and unlike people they are very predictable. It’s this predictability that allows us to solve business problems. For example, we can use transaction behaviour to spot fraud patterns for HSBC, and we can use customer behaviour to help Waitrose decide what stock to put on which shelves in which stores. So exactly the same techniques are used for two totally different things. And it’s the same techniques that we are using to look for patterns within rowing data that help us establish what makes a good rower good, what makes the boat go faster, how we can optimise that performance and so on. Read More