Saturday, 24th October 2020

Faster Finnish finishes?

A pilot leveraging the personal data of top athletes as part of their coaching has yielded positive results. The project – a joint collaboration between The Finnish Olympic Committee, TietoEVRY and Polar, and funded by Sitra – involved the comprehensive utilization of data to boost the performance of Nordic combined as well as track and field athletes. The aim is to make the solution available for other sports federations as well.

A joint pilot project between the Finnish Olympic Committee, Polar and TietoEVRY tested the use of elite athletes’ personal data in coaching during 2019-2020. The developed solution combines the collection of top athletes’ personal information from different sources, data management and the sharing of the data so that it can be analyzed and utilized holistically.The project fired the starting pistol for a wider development of a Finnish elite sports information system which aims to improve the competitive advantage of top Finnish athletes with the help of data.


Previously, the data affecting the performance of Finnish athletes has been decentralized in different systems. The new system will allow athletes to gather their competition, well-being, training, test and health information in one place and share this data securely and seamlessly with their coaches and others. When all this important information of an athlete is visible at one glance, it is easy to assess the athlete's current condition and optimize the training and recovery.

“The feedback from both athletes and coaches has been very positive and interest towards this new solution has grown in various sports federations. The project is part of the Finnish Olympic Committee's data strategy and it really supports coaching as well as the overall progress of top athletes,” says Juha Saapunki, the Olympic Committee's digital manager.

The test groups of the pilot were the runners from Jyväskylä, coached by Ari Nummela, and the Nordic combined athletes from Vuokatti, coached by Antti Kuisma and Jouni Kaitainen. Athletes’ data was collected by using Polar devices.

“This new solution has made the daily work of a coach much easier and it has also saved time. I can monitor the key variables of my entire coaching team on a mobile device anytime, anywhere. I can also make coaching decisions conveniently based on current data without having to log in to several different systems,” says Ari Nummela, Leading Expert of Sports physiology at KIHU – the Research Institute for Olympic Sports, summarizing the benefits of the new solution from a coach's point of view.

“Though my coach prepares the training programs for me, I want to understand my own training and progress as much as possible. That’s why it’s important that I receive information about my training in an easy-to-read format. This project has provided a good solution for it,” says Otto Kaario, one of the runners coached by Ari Nummela.

In addition to top athletes, the newly developed data lake-based solution can, for example, be utilized in junior sports, analyzing the well-being of employees, and monitoring the recovery of patients in rehabilitation by using the near real-time data. Utilizing the application saves the user's working time and gives a holistic and real-time view of the well-being of the person being viewed.

“It has been very rewarding to co-operate with the Finnish Olympic Committee and to develop a data-driven solution for the country’s elite sportspeople. We are encouraged to see how much enthusiasm the new solution has garnered among both coaches and athletes. Happily, we will also be able to offer the solution more widely in the future, supporting the well-being of society as a whole,” says Niina Siipola, Intelligent Wellbeing Area Product Owner from TietoEVRY.

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