Over a 15-day stretch in August, Emily Wood did little but work.
The performance scientist from the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario who worked with Cycling Canada’s track team, Wood spent each day of the Rio Olympics working 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with few breaks in between.
Not that the heavy workload bothered Wood, but watching her crew take the bronze in the Cycling Women’s Team Pursuit validated every second she put in.
“It’s a lot of hard work and long days and long hours,” Wood said. “I could be at the track for 12 hours during the Olympics competition, where I’m filming our competitors and collecting data on key opponents as well as ourselves, and then producing reports for our coaches and all of our riders.”
Wood prepared the team in the months leading up to the Olympics with Sportscode. As soon as the video was captured, Wood coded live to generate splits and other performance indicators for each rider. Then she met with the coaches and athletes to relay the analysis and video to help them improve. This information impacts performance decisions, helping to devise specific strategies and schedules for competition, and assist with rider selection and order.
Wood was prepared for the occasion after working with the Australian team in 2010, but the industry has changed greatly since then with the rising importance of performance analysts. Wood said there used to be three or four analysts at a major cycling competition, but now each country has at least one person capturing live and sending data down to the coaches and riders.
With the profession growing so rapidly, Wood instructs prospective performance analysts to be as proactive as they can.
“You gotta put yourself out there,” Wood said. “Don’t give up on it. Keep ringing people, trying to get as much experience as you can, even if it’s for free. It will all be worth it in the end. Know the sport that you’re working in. Know what’s important. Work hard.”
The Olympics may be over, but Wood doesn’t get too much downtime. With the Pan Am Championships on the horizon and a pair of World Cups in November, Wood’s workload will remain a heavy one.
But when you’re doing what you love, the burden feels much lighter.
“It’s completely worth it when you can see what you’re doing is having an immediate impact on performance and potential medals,” Wood said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Want to learn more about Wood’s Olympic experience? Check out her Twitter account.