Rio Olympics: water conditions a concern for Canadian rowers


Canadian rower Lindsey Jennerich and the rest of her teammates will be taking special precautions on the water at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of the putrid and polluted conditions of Rio's Olympic waterways.

The Victoria rower has competed twice in Rio leading up to the Games, and the experience left a foul taste in her mouth.

"There were definitely some interesting smells that I can recall on both trips," she told On The Coast guest host Chris Brown. "From what I saw, it's definitely not as bad as the pictures have shown and what people are saying, but I do ... trust that there's definitely some stuff in that water."

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 A new round of testing by the Associated Press appears to show the city's Olympic waterways rife with pathogens. But Bob McCormack, a professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia and an orthopedic surgeon, has viewed data from the extensive testing of the water being conducted on a regular basis.

While he didn't dispute reports that 50 per cent of the sewage in the metropolitan area of Rio goes untreated, McCormack understands officials are working to make sure the water quality at the athlete venues is acceptable.

In all of the water-based test events held in Rio, McCormack said, no Canadians have become ill and only six per cent of international athletes.

Jennerich and her teammates are taking precautions such as getting their vaccines up-to-date, disinfecting their equipment and even using smaller, disposable water bottles that are switched out more often all to reduce the chances of catching anything.

But still, it is a water sport, and the athletes will get wet. Jennerich sits in the bow seat, which means she gets splashed more than anyone else on the boat.

Jennerich says she and her teammates are trying to put aside the conditions and just focus on their performance, but the worries are a problem.

"If you're working at a high level and you're training really hard, your body's under a lot of stress on a daily basis," she said. "To add worry to the mix is just not helpful."

The Canadian team will be limiting their time practising in the Rio water. Usually, Jennerich says, they would practise in the competition conditions two weeks ahead of the event. At Rio, they will only be getting into the water four days in advance.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Rio Olympics might not be smooth sailing for Canada's rowers

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