Mouat believes number crunching will lead to Olympic curling victory
Curling number cruncher Bruce Mouat feels a data-led approach could give Team GB a golden edge on their Olympic rivals in Beijing.
The Scottish skip has been fixated by his sport since the age of eight, spending family holidays sitting on grandpa’s lap playing Granite, the first and only curling video game.
Mouat and team work very closely with UK Sport’s data team, surgically analysing rivals and game scenarios, fast turning the game of stones from an art into science.
It’s an obsessive approach that has driven his team to second in the world and now towards the Olympic podium.
“I don't think that we can have too much data,” said the 27-year-old.
“We’re having to make tough choices, and one option might give us 60% chance of winning but if we go for another option, we might have only a 40% chance.
“That’s information we're now trying to take on during each game. We're also trying to get good information against each opposition that we're playing against.
“The fact that we're able to have this information right now - which is maybe in its beginning stages, as we have a lot further to go with it - is important.
“We're always looking for that extra one or two percent to beat the world's best.
“We're playing against them every weekend, so you're always looking for that extra wee bit to get in front of them and I feel like we're doing a lot of good things to be able to get that.”
Mouat’s team-mate, Grant Hardie, also relishes the numbers game having graduated with a degree in civil engineering 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, opening on February 4.
Mouat is the first British curler to have a shot at two events in the same Games, going into the mixed doubles event alongside childhood friend Jenn Dodds as world champions.
They will be coached by Sochi silver medallist and three-time Olympian David Murdoch, who has seen the influence of data grow exponentially since his own playing days.
“In curling, analytics are becoming very, very dominant and it’s something we’ve dived into in quite a big way,” he said.
“We’ve made some real changes to our game, things have progressed, and we’d like to think we’re on top of that.
“It started to come on the scene in 2014 but we’re starting to understand it a lot better. We have huge amounts of data, because more teams are gathering it and it’s more on the table now.”
Murdoch’s silver seven years ago was the closest Britain have got to matching one of the nation’s magical Winter Olympic moments, Rhona Martin’s ‘Stone of Destiny’ in Salt Lake City.
Mouat, who was eight years old in 2002, might have pursued swimming over curling were it not for Martin and team’s triumph.
“It was one of the reasons Dad took me along to the rink,” he said.
“I didn’t have any relation who curled before me, it hasn’t run in the family for me, unlike most curlers. Rhona’s success was such a huge thing and it led the way for so many athletes.”
The prospect of an Olympic debut - coming at a Winter Games unlike any other with strict COVID restrictions expected in China - doesn’t faze Mouat in the slightest.
In fact, having won bronze on World Championship debut in 2018 and gold at their maiden European Championships that same year, they’re hoping first time will be a charm once again.
“The fact that we’ve had success in the last two years gives us a lot of confidence going in,” said Mouat.
“People always remind me that the Olympics are different and it’s a difficult thing 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’s not unrealistic for us to look at an Olympic medal. We’re in a very good spot and we could go out there and do that.”
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