British curlers embrace Moneyball in an attempt to gain an advantage over rivals at the Winter Olympics. The GB team named its first six athletes for Beijing 2022 on Thursday, with world champion Bruce Mouat aiming for the double gold in the mixed doubles and men’s event.
The 27-year-old from Edinburgh believes the use of data and analytics could make all the difference in February as it helps them better prepare for their opponents and gives them a better understanding of what it takes make matches at crucial times.
“I don’t think we can have too much data,” he said. “If we have to make a tough choice, one option might give us a 60% chance of winning, but if we take another, we might only have a 40% chance. So it is this information that we are now trying to take into account in every game.
“We’re always looking for that extra one or two percent that we can find to beat the best in the world. Much of the work for UK Sport and Lottery Funding was able to help us analyze video analytics, our opposition, and different game scenarios.
The use of analytics is already helping UK teams. Mouat and teammate Jen Dodds will travel to Beijing after winning the mixed doubles world championships in April. Mouat will also lead the in-form men’s squad – Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan and reserve Ross Whyte – which have steadily climbed the world rankings after winning silver at the world championships.
“The fact that we can have this information is important,” said Mouat. “But curling is also quite a physical sport, so you have to be able to be a good athlete and have some strategy. This is probably why I love this sport so much. It’s not just a question of physics, but how strategic and daring you have to be to stay two steps ahead of your opponent.
Dodds said: “Being selected for my first Olympics means so much. This is something that we have been striving for for years.
“It means a lot to be on the squad with Bruce. We’ve known each other for so long. We started at the same club so sharing this moment together is something really special.
The women’s team, with Eve Muirhead as captain, have yet to qualify for the Games, but they hope to earn a quota spot in December.
British Curling executive performance director Nigel Holl said the team’s recent successes on the world stage have demonstrated the benefits of internal competition when international competition has become impossible during the lockdown. “The athletes responded beautifully to this and we are delighted that Bruce, Jen, Grant, Bobby, Hammy and Ross earned this opportunity to make their Olympic debut,” he said.