At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Great Britain ranked thirty-sixth in the medals table, finishing below countries like Algeria, Belgium and Kazakhstan. It was their worst ever record, a dismal performance labelled a national disgrace. But then something happened. In Sydney in 2000 and then Athens in 2004, Team GB achieved a much more respectable tenth place. By 2016, in Rio, they finished second, above China and Russia, with sixty-seven medals. How have they so convincingly reversed their fortunes?
In Game Changers we meet the coaches and sports scientists who rethink how sport is analysed and understood, how athletes train and perform under pressure. In Liverpool in the 1980s, a motley group – a mathematician, a physiologist, a psychologist and a former Olympic basketball player – began to pioneer new ways of tracking performance. Over the decades that followed, performance analysis came of age, becoming an essential component of any elite team, from English Premier League title winners Manchester City to America’s Cup high-performance sailing teams.
Using a hybrid of scientific method and trial-and-error, scientists have uncovered the tenets of accelerated learning, the mechanics of physiological adaptation, the organisational principles behind elite teams, the understanding of how hormones and environment affect performance. These discoveries are not confined to athletic endeavours – they are universal and reveal what it takes to win not only in sports, but are applicable across a wide range of disciplines, including business, leadership and education.