Category: Olympic Games

Should we expect a bigger home advantage in the Tokyo Olympics?

63 days to go until the opening ceremony of the most unusual Olympic Games in History. While Worldwide and in Japan there is a lot of discussion about the possibility that this edition may not go ahead after the postponement of last year, let’s discuss home advantage at the Olympics.

The COVID situation is still ‘live’ and it will be a challenge for athletes and support staff to attend with many restrictions and most of all with uncertainty over the ability for the public to access the venues. What we know is that international spectators will not be allowed to attend the games and travel to Japan which creates a unique scenario for such a global sporting event. In fact, we could have a scenario where only domestic spectators can be allowed to attend (full or limited numbers) or the current scenario in many countries at the moment where no spectators are allowed in the venues.

Either scenario will have for sure implications for the performance of athletes and may affect in particular local athletes (positively or negatively is the real question).

Historically, home nations have benefitted from the Olympics at home by winning more medals than the previous editions. In the last twenty years in particular, the trend has been quite clear with Greece and Brazil showing a minimal ‘gain’ from hosting the games and Australia, Great Britain and China making huge improvements (with GB being the only nation to surpass home games success in Rio 2016).

Difference in Medals won from previous OG in host nations.

Japan as a host nation has great ambitions. The performance of Japanese athletes in the last 3 editions of the Olympic Games has shown an increase in the number of medals possibly thanks to increased investment in Olympic Sports and in infrastructure which could reach its peak at the ‘Home’ Olympics. My Japanese colleagues tell me the objective is to finish in the top 3.

Current virtual medal tables based on performances in World Championships/World Cups/Continental championships are starting to predict how the final medal table might look like and many indicate that Japan might be well on track to be in the top 4 in this edition with the fight between 1st and 2nd place between USA and China and with Team GB not looking particularly promising.

Virtual Medal Table 1-10
Virtual Medal Table by Gracenote

Another nation looking on the up is the Netherlands which has been the most improved nation in medals won in the quadrennium 2016-2020.

Biggest Medal Improvements-041421
Biggest Medal Improvements – form Gracenote

For sure, this edition of the Olympics will be unusual and incredibly challenging to predict due to the many uncertainties and challenges athletes and coaches face. Most of all, we don’t know what crowds (if any) they are going to have in the venues and this might change completely many dynamics.

I was fortunate enough to be in the Beijing, Vancouver and London venues and I can tell you that the crowds had a massive influence on many performances (Usain Bolt sprinting the World Record in Beijing, Canada beating the US in the Ice Hockey Final in Vancouver, and super saturday in London 2012). Will the Japanese athletes benefit more or less from home advantage? Will we be able to witness incredible performances?

Despite the pandemic, there have been some exceptional performances in 2020, are we going to witness something really special this time? Who are going to be the heroes and the villains?

65 reasons to be happy!

I am finally back in London after the Olympics and the well deserved rest. It’s been an amazing few months. I did not have much time to write on the blog and I promise to keep it up to date more in the future. I was busy working for our greatest team: Team GB. The last few months of preparation have been frantic and culminated with an incredible Olympiad in which Team GB won 65 medals finishing with an historical 3rd place in the medal table after the superpowers China and USA.

New Picture (1)

This is the result of 4 years of incredible dedication not only by our athletes but also, coaches, administrators, science and medicine support and lots of people who contributed to the success of the team. The public was amazing, every venue had such a brilliant atmosphere and the support we all received was truly inspirational. It was for me a privilege and an honour to work with such a talented group of people in the last few years and with amazing support teams during the games. I will cherish the memories for years to come. The British sporting system has changed enormously since I arrived in the UK in 2001 and I can say that there is an exciting scientific and coaching community which is envied by the rest of the World.

Success in sport is due to many aspects: funding, environment, coaching, organisations structures, science and medicine, engineering, vision and belief that miracles happen to people who believe in them. GB was10th in the medal table with 30 medals in Athens in 2004 and is now in the top 3, well done everyone involved in Olympic Sports in the UK. 500 athletes, 50 million strong, you all are part of our greatest team!

I will write more about the Olympics in the next few weeks, I am still going through some data and will write more about what I have seen and what the trends are. Also I will keep writing about science in sport.

Winning margins in Vancouver

The 2010 Winter Olympics are over. It was absolutely brilliant! Great atmosphere, fantastic venues, and most of all for us a gold medal to remember for years.

 

amywillliams

A great show where incredible athletes do amazing things with state of the art technology. Science and technology play nowadays a crucial role for success in winter sports. Every move can be analysed in real time, every turn and the technology used can be dissected to show how good some athletes are. Shaun White won an impressive 2nd gold in the Half Pipe and everyone can see why he was better than everyone else.

Every technique can now be studied in details and athletes and coaches can receive feedback on the field of play. Despite the fact technology plays a big role in most of the winter sports I have to say that as usual, it is the athlete who wins.

Having the right mindset and being totally prepared is what makes the difference.

Physical preparation, nutrition, psychological preparation, fitness all play a role. However most of the times people forget that behind a great athlete there is always a brilliant coach. Coaching seems to be underrated in modern times. Reading some of the media during and after the games, it seems that an athlete wins because he/she is good or because he/she has the most advanced technology. What I can say is that many athletes win because they have incredibly good coaches, able to prepare them very well and most of all TEACH them something more or better than other coaches can do. They are the least celebrated individuals, and in my opinion the people who can really make the difference between winning and losing.

The margins between winning and losing are very small. Fractions of seconds separate a gold medal from a silver, bronze or no medal at all. What role can sports science play?

Sports science can only make an impact if a talented athlete has a talented coach and a structured programme is in place. Science can then help the coaching process pushing to reach the limits of the athlete’s potential and identifying the marginal gains.

There is more to be written on this topic, and I promise to write more in the next few months.