MARLOW, UK – 28 October 2015 – Three years ago Anna Watkins stood on the podium at London 2012 with a
gold medal around her neck. A lot has changed since then; not only has she had two children, but GB Rowing has
evolved, particularly in its use of data analytics.
Since Watkins and her Olympic gold medal-winning partner, Katherine Grainger, won gold at the London Games,
the GB Rowing Team has undergone a serious shift in its reliance on and use of technology and data analytics.
Crucially, SAS – a world leader in business analytics software – became ‘Official Analytics Partner’ of the GB Rowing
Team and more widely British Rowing in May 2014, with its remit ultimately focusing on maximizing the squad’s
medal potential ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Watkins commented: “Before SAS our data was a little bit lacking in cohesion. Your coach might have had access
to data for the boat in general, whereas now even the crew has this super-flashy database where individual rowers
can press a button and compare all sorts of facts about their performances.”
She went on to add: “I think there is a big breakthrough to be had in rowing by using data. Rowing is a funny sport
because the scores we achieve on the indoor rowing machines don’t translate perfectly to what happens on the
water. So it’s not straightforward. There’s a technical aspect; but to define what is perfect technique is almost
Watkins has patiently observed performance director, Sir David Tanner’s squad from the sidelines throughout 2015,
as they enjoyed varying amounts of success at World and European Championships. But the 32-year-old has
decided enough is enough, and has boldly set her sights on earning a place in the team ahead of the Rio 2016
Comebacks are not uncommon in professional sport, especially in rowing – just ask Sir Steve Redgrave. But with
the sport developing faster than ever, Watkins is far from certain to be a shoo-in. And her first assessment – a 2K
test on an ergometer at the Princess Royal Sports Arena in Boston, Lincolnshire on 31 October – will ultimately
determine whether she is to be reunited with her long-time friend, Grainger in the GB Squad.
Having graduated from Cambridge University and now pursuing a PhD in mathematics, Watkins is no stranger to
numbers and is keen to discover how analysis of different aspects of training can help improve performance.
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt