Curler Bruce Mouat believes a data-driven approach could give Team GB a golden advantage over their Olympic rivals in Beijing.
The Scottish captain has been obsessed with his sport since he was eight, spending a family vacation sitting in his grandfather’s lap playing Granite, the first and only curling video game.
Mouat and his team work closely with UK Sport’s data team, surgically analyzing rivals and gameplay scenarios, quickly turning stonework from an art to a science.
It is an obsessive approach that has led his team to second in the world and now to the Olympic podium.
“I don’t think we can have too much data,” said the 27-year-old.
“We have to make tough choices, and one option might give us a 60% chance of winning, but if we go for another option, we might only have a 40% chance.
“This is information that we are now trying to take into account in every game. We also try to get good information against every opposition we play against.
“The fact that we can have this information right now – which may be in its early stages, because we still have a lot to do with it – is important.
“We’re always looking for an extra percent or two to beat the best in the world.
“We play against them every weekend so you’re always looking for that little extra to beat them and I feel like we’re doing a lot of good things to be able to get it.”
Mouat’s teammate Grant Hardie also relishes the number game after graduating with a civil engineering degree from the University of Strathclyde.
Mouat, Hardie, Hammy McMillan and Bobby Lammie are among the first group of athletes to be selected by Team GB for the Winter Games, which begin on February 4.
Mouat is the first British curler to compete in two events at the same Games, competing in the mixed doubles event alongside his childhood friend Jenn Dodds as world champions.
They will be coached by Sochi silver medalist and three-time Olympian David Murdoch, who has seen the influence of data grow exponentially since his own playing days.
“In curling, analytics is becoming very, very dominant and that’s something we’ve gotten into quite significantly,” he said.
“We’ve made some real changes to our game, things have progressed and we would like to think we’re on top of that.
“It started showing up in 2014, but we’re starting to understand it a lot better. We have huge amounts of data, as more and more teams are collecting it and it’s more on the table now. ”
Murdoch’s silver seven years ago was the closest to Britain to match one of the country’s magical Winter Olympics moments, Rhona Martin’s ‘Stone of Fate’ in Salt Lake City.
Mouat, who was eight in 2002, could have continued swimming rather than curling without the triumph of Martin and his team.
“That’s one of the reasons Dad took me to the rink,” he said.
“I haven’t had a parent who curled before me, it’s not family to me like most curlers. Rhona’s success was such a huge thing and it paved the way for so many athletes.
The prospect of an Olympic debut – at a Winter Games unlike any other with strict COVID restrictions expected in China – does not bother Mouat at all.
In fact, having won bronze in their World Championships debut in 2018 and gold in their first European Championships that same year, they are hoping the first time will be a charm again.
“The fact that we’ve been successful over the past two years gives us a lot of confidence to start,” said Mouat.
“People always remind me that the Olympics are different and that it’s hard to go for the first time.
“We went to the Europeans for the first time and won a medal at our first world championships. I think it is not unrealistic for us to look at an Olympic medal. We’re in a very good position and we could go out there and do it. ”
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