U.S., Rio officials to test polluted Olympic bay before August competition

Guanabara Bay
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US Sailing says it’s working with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which will combine with Rio de Janeiro authorities to test the water at a 2016 Olympic sailing venue before American sailors travel there for a competition that begins Aug. 2.

US Sailing will send athletes to the competition, an Olympic test event, despite reports of concerning pollution levels at the Guanabara Bay venue, and the sailors may take inoculations or antibiotics based on the results of water testing.

“We’re well aware of the concerns of water quality in Guanabara Bay,” U.S. Olympic Sailing managing director Josh Adams said. “We’re taking the steps necessary so that the athletes are prepared.”

The Guanabara Bay water quality is “very, very bad” compared to most sailing venues, the head of competitions for the International Sailing Federation told the Associated Press on Monday. Sailing’s governing body may conduct independent water-quality tests, the AP reported.

Sailors from around the world agreed that the water quality in the 148-square-mile bay must improve, in interviews with the AP and The New York Times.

Adams, who plans to go to the test event with US Sailing athletes, last visited Guanabara Bay in November 2012 and is in regular contact with the International Sailing Federation and other countries’ national governing bodies for sailing about Olympic preparations, including cleaning up the bay.

“We are taking actions in our own hands and testing the water,” Adams said, “to determine what kind of inoculations or antibiotics we have to take.”

It’s a standard measure, Adams said. The U.S. also tested the sailing venue before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where an algal bloom threatened the waters but was cleaned up in time.

“As is always the case, we’re working with the organizing committee and the local authorities to ensure that our athletes are able to safely compete and have the resources they need to be successful,” the USOC said in a statement.

About six U.S. sailors recently visited Guanabara Bay for training or competition over two trips, one year ago and again in January. The venue regularly hosts local sailing events, and its biggest competition was the 2007 Pan American Games.

“I would say I’ve sailed in worse waters before, for sure,” said American Chris Barnard, who has sailed internationally for six years and competed in Guanabara Bay in January. “I would say that venue, it’s not the worst, but it could use some cleaning.”

Barnard said he’s never taken preventative medication due to water quality issues before.

Another U.S. sailor, 2012 Olympian Paige Railey, said Rio de Janeiro is her favorite sailing venue in the world out of her 12 years of international experience. She last visited for training in September, where she said she didn’t find any of the reported overt problems at the portions of the bay she sailed in.

“We went swimming in the water,” she said. “I flipped over [in my boat]. I’ve been in the water, have had it splashing in my face. None of us had any issues.”

Railey plans to spend a lot of time in Rio de Janeiro over the next two years training for the Olympics.

“It’s important to note that Brazil has a pretty rich history in sailing, and there’s a lot of competition that goes on in Guanabara Bay,” Adams said. “A lot of Olympians over the years have traveled there to sailing competitions. It’s not like all of a sudden we’re descending on a place that has never hosted a sailing event before.”

Pollution flowing into the bay hoped to be cut by 80 percent by the Olympics, but the new best-case scenario is “over 50 percent” could be cut, according to the AP.

Rio’s top environmental official said recent tests showed that fecal contamination in the Olympic regatta area was within “satisfactory” standards in Brazil, according to the Times.

US Sailing expects to send more than 20 athletes to the test event in August.

“As far as we can tell, conditions haven’t changed recently, people are just becoming more aware of it,” Adams said. “We are in favor of efforts to clean up the bay and expect a lot to be done in this area.”

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WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona World Championships women’s pro race

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
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Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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