TORONTO – Canadian Olympic hero Mark Tewksbury, who won a historic Gold medal for Canada in the 100-metre backstroke at the 1992 Barcelona games, told Tech In Sports he more than likely missed out on a couple of medals by three one hundredths of second. That’s just 30 milliseconds; you need 1,000 milliseconds to make up one actual second.
With the announcement of an eight-year partnership between SAS Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), Tewksbury believes this can close that gap between Canadian athletes falling out of the medals and standing on the victory podium.
This partnership with SAS is the Canadian Olympic Committee’s first foray into providing the 26 different Summer Games sports and the 14 Winter Games disciplines analytics solutions to gain big data insights for not just the athletes but also their coaches, according to Tewksbury who is now sports analyst.
“In my era, one of the innovations in my sport was the underwater dolphin kick. There was no rule against that in the backstroke. So the gloves were off and you could have done that technic for 47 metres underwater for 25 seconds. Now you can only do that for 15 metres, but at the time it was an aerodynamic way to get an edge in competition. But my coach never brought that into the program because there was no real data to prove it was a faster way to do the backstroke. If we had that kind of technology innovation I would have been better prepared,” Tewksbury said.
Beyond the SAS solutions, the software vendor is also creating an Analytics Advisory Council made up of data scientists and sports experts who will be tasked to find new ways where data analytics can be used to win more medals for Canada.
SAS Canada President Cameron Dow confirmed to Tech In Sports that everything is on the table for the Canadian Olympic Team from SAS’s portfolio.
“The COC will get a blank cheque from SAS Canada. Any and all capabilities will be made available to Canadian athletes and coaches to help them make a difference. There will be no restrictions on this partnership,” Dow said.
Dow believes the COC partnership will improve SAS’s visibility in the marketplace nationally. “More importantly the partnership is important to our people. SAS Canada employees are very passionate about sports and sure we help banks and other sectors reduce costs and improve earnings but this has a societal impact similar to what we do in healthcare and with public safety,” Dow added.
Chris Overholt, CEO & Secretary General of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said that beyond the technology being provided by SAS, the COC will also be getting 40 years of analytics and data-driven decision making expertise. He agreed that the expectations for Canadian athletes will be higher.
Overholt provided a video response from the COC on how data helps coaching. Watch it here.
“Athletes and coaches always try to take the bar up and it has been most evident in the last three Olympics. We are all about excellence. Our role is to provide as many resources as possible. And, the bar is moving all the time and the COC was looking for technology innovation and partners such as SAS who can provide those fractions you need for winning,” Overholt said.
Canadian multi-sport athlete Heather Moyse was on hand at the SAS Canada/COC Partnership event. Moyse has represented Canada internationally in bobsleigh, rugby and cycling over three Olympic games. Moyse has won two back-to-back Gold medals in the bobsleigh with her pilot Kaillie Humphries.
Moyse called SAS analytics solutions a “game changer” for herself not just in the bobsleigh but also in rugby. “Sports you win on inches and fractions of a second. It’s all about timing when you are in the sled and if you are off by a hundreds of a second you lost. If I position my first step an inch too far; I’ve overstepped and will not get the power and speed I need to win. More information from the data means more knowledge and knowledge is power. Even by telling us what the data means can be invaluable to an athlete,” she said.
Another Canadian Olympic hero Adam van Koeverden, who has won four medals including Gold in the kayak over the span of four Olympic games said when he started kayaks were made of wood and the time was taken on a Timex. “Data has changed the sport drastically and all of our results are now monitored and uploaded to the cloud, while GPS technology tracks every stroke. If you take an extra stroke, you’ll know about it and the data now can help quantify your performance. This makes me confident. And, confidence can be measured with analytics and by measuring it; it provides me with confidence on the starting line better than anything else,” he said.