Midday scorcher lands Latvian in hospital

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2001, 12:00am

Latvia's Inguna Minusa became the first victim of heat exhaustion as yesterday's scorching weather took its toll on players at the Pacific Century Insurance Hong Kong Women's Open at Victoria Park.

With temperatures hovering around 34 degrees Celsius on court, Minusa collapsed after playing her match against Hungary's Nagy and Katalin Schegl and was taken to hospital suffering from severe dehydration. She had played during the hottest time of the day - around noon.

Minusa was later discharged from hospital and felt well enough to play with teammate Ing Pulina, but her team decided against her playing again after the health scare. They were scheduled to play against Japan's Rii Seike and Torii but gave a walkover.

Tournament director Michael O'Hara confirmed the incident which highlighted the dangers of playing sport in extremely hot weather.

Several weeks ago American football player Korey Stringer collapsed and later died in hospital after working out in scorching heat in the US. At least two other American athletes have died this summer in heat exhaustion-related incidents.

O'Hara said players had been warned before play to take in plenty of fluids and to take other preventive measures to protect themselves from the dangers of heat exhaustion.

'On Tuesday night, we had a meeting with all the qualifying players and [tournament doctor] Dr Judi Laprae had informed the players of ways to prevent dehydration,' said O'Hara.

It is understood that the Latvian player, who had played in China recently in hot weather, had only consumed a cup of coffee, a banana and half a slice of bread before she was taken ill.

'The player is okay now and she almost played the next match but decided not to. She is feeling better and the hospital has checked her out and said she is fine. She didn't take the necessary precautions to prevent dehydration,' said O'Hara.

'In the US, doctors recommend athletes take extra fluid [in hot weather] an hour or so before they play their matches. The Latvian player didn't do that.

'It was hot out there and she played in the late morning near noon. It's a tough sport.'

O'Hara said no plans had been made to change the playing schedule to allow competitors to play during the cooler part of the day, saying today's main draw will be divided into three shifts with an evening session as well.

'There are three shifts as well for Saturday's play. We will study whether we should change the schedule. We will see how the players like it so when we hold this tournament again next year, we can improve the schedule.'

Mainland player Fu Lingli said playing in the hot weather was part of life on the circuit and she had grown accustomed to the extreme heat.

'We play in hot weather conditions in China as well. Heat exhaustion can be very dangerous for players.

'But if the player takes the proper precautions, like taking in extra fluid before and after the game, they should be okay out there,' said Fu.

Meanwhile, eight teams of qualifiers will join today's main draw and spectators will catch a glimpse of some of the best volleyball players in action for the first time.

Olympic Sydney silver medallists Adriana Behar and Shelda Eede will show their mettle as the tournament favourites.

Also playing today are American champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May who are expected to meet the Brazilians for the title on Sunday.

In one of the better games of the day yesterday, China's Lu Wenfeng and Ren Zhengqing, the two teenagers from Zhejiang province, defeated compatriots Fu and Lan Hong in three sets.

The teenage mainlanders came back from a set down to beat their opponents 17-21, 21-17, 15-13 in an energy-sapping game that impressed a small crowd.

It is expected that fine and very hot weather will continue over the weekend and that spectators will enjoy a feast of top-class volleyball action as well as other activities.