Guanabara Bay

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

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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.”

Video: Runner, cyclist lose after celebrating prematurely

Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

Skate America
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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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