It's a numbers game for British rower Hill
Maintaining British Rowing’s dominance is the aim of the game and Holly Hill believes the use of data analytics will prove ‘invaluable’ to ensuring they do just that.
The 24-year-old World Class Start programme graduate was speaking at an event raising awareness about the methods used by British Rowing to identify medal-winners of the future.
With the help of its Official Analytics Partner, SAS, British Rowing has developed the Athlete Longitudinal Profiling (ALP) project to help streamline the talent identification and selection process.
Olympians Greg Rutherford and Morgan Lake were put through their paces on Wednesday to show how few individuals have the right physiological makeup to make it on to the WCS programme.
Hill, who was on hand to mentor Rutherford and Lake, hailed the impact SAS has had on British Rowing by helping rowers access and analyse data more efficiently and effectively.
"The data they provide is absolutely invaluable as without it you would be looking at any classic sheet of numbers, data tables, and you wouldn’t really have any context," she said.
"What SAS do well, and which helps us with our Olympic talent ID, is put the numbers of a person who hasn’t rowed before into a context that allows us to say whether they would be suitable.
"If they are suitable, it helps to identify their strengths and weaknesses that can be a super strength and weaknesses over the course of an Olympiad or their career.
"You can work on those things and then bring them up to an Olympic level, so without the data analysis that SAS provide much of the data collection would be irrelevant, so it’s important.
"We use SAS for a lot of things and that data side of things. There comes a point when every athlete around the world can train to a certain level and push their body to the limit.
"Beyond that it’s really a data game, working out how we can best work together and use the processes we’ve got in place to make that training even more effective and get the most out of it.
"There are only so many hours in a day and it becomes which country has the best system behind its athletes to support them and help them get the most from their training."
Since 2014, SAS has been working with British Rowing to improve its data analytics capacity and capabilities, allowing the team to optimise already successful pathway programmes.
The specific rowing tests and the ALP project can accurately determine whether Rutherford and Lake would stand a chance of progressing on to the World Class Start programme or not.
Both Rutherford and Lake had their measurements recorded before taking part in a strength test on a Concept2 DYNO machine and an endurance test on a Schwinn Airdyne arm/leg bike.
Hill was impressed by what she saw from both athletes, despite being newcomers to the sport, and said watching them go through the testing brought back painful memories.
"It was enjoyable watching Greg and Morgan go through the testing and remembering what I did six years ago – you see that it hasn’t got any easier and they did a really good job," she said.
"It was good to compare what they did on the machines, and their test scores, and compare them with current and potential rowing Olympians. Greg’s leg press was really strong from his long jumping, so maybe we’ll get him back for the next Olympiad."
Hill won silver in the women’s eight at the 2018 European Championships, but she said the team must bring their A game next year after missing out at the World Championships.
"This is my first-year training full time with the squad and competing," she said. "We came sixth in the eight at the Worlds, which was disappointing as in some races we’d been pushing for a medal.
"We’ve obviously got to go away and assess that and come back from that next year, but I think the groundwork is in place, as it’s a new squad and a new group of athletes.
"We are getting along with each other and making the boats go fast, so I’m looking forward to this year with the three World Cups, the European Championships and then the Worlds.
"The year before the Olympics this is when things start to ramp up and it’s important that we bring our A game to the World Championships as we need to qualify the boats for the Olympics."