Hong Kong’s Olympics rowing coach surprised to find Rio water ‘remarkably clear’ – but he’s not about to try a taste test

The four-strong team are more concerned about strong winds that have affected their ability to train on the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2016, 8:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 1:25pm

Pollution? What pollution? Swallowing three teaspoons of Guanabara Bay juice is reportedly all it takes to bring down a hardy Olympic sailor but the rowers at the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon venue are almost tempted - but not quite - to sup the relatively crystal clear waters of the lake course, according to Hong Kong coach Chris Perry.

Perry said the main concern for rowers is the strong winds blowing through gaps in the nearby Corcovado mountain, which forced several training sessions to be abandoned.

“Funnily enough, the water quality is not an issue,” said Perry, who has four rowers in Rio in the men’s and women’s lightweight double sculls. “It is surprisingly clear, and there are no pieces of rubbish as we expected.

“Of course, I’m not going to go out there and drink it but it’s remarkably clear and I think a lot of people are fairly surprised. We had a TV crew out here and they were surprised to look down at the water and see the bottom of the lake.”

Hong Kong’s main delegation arrived in Rio on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning HK time) tired and weary after a day’s journey halfway around the world but relieved to have just missed getting caught by Typhoon Nida.

Rio organisers have been under pressure to clean up the water venues ahead of the Games. Although the sailing waters are still heavily polluted, it appears they have had more success with the rowing course.

Still, clear waters are of no help when the wind is blowing as it has been over the past two days in Rio.

Hong Kong are represented by sisters Lee Ka-man and Lee Yuen-yin, in the women’s double lightweight sculls, and Chiu Hin-chun and Tang Chiu-mang, in the men’s doubles. However, they have only been out on the water once since arriving in Rio on Saturday night.

“The main issue is the wind conditions,” said Perry, who is overseeing Hong Kong rowers in his seventh Olympics. “Yesterday [Monday] morning we were not able to train at all, in the afternoon the water was flat like a mirror and we got in some good training but then the wind blew up again.

“But it’s the same for all teams. They also haven’t been able to train.”

Wind conditions of around 6 metres per second is generally considered strong enough to keep boats off the water but it also depends on direction. Rio organisers have factored in a spare day in case races are abandoned.

Perry’s squad left Hong Kong about 10 weeks ago and have been training mostly in Belgium before arriving in Rio.

Both crews will take part in the heats on Saturday aiming to gain direct entry into the semi-finals. However, Perry said they will come up against some strong seeded teams and it may be a case of relying on Sunday’s repechage to reach the later rounds.

“For us coaches, we always say that we focus on the process rather than outcome,” said Perry. “We can’t control the speed of other crews, we can only execute to the best of our ability.

“Our focus over the past few weeks has been to stick to our routine and practise our race plan. It’s easy to become overawed by the Olympics but we just want to focus on what we have to do.”