Triathletes’ reactions to Rio Olympic water venue after test event

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The world’s top triathletes took to the Rio 2016 course for an Olympic test event Sunday as officials continue to monitor and test the outdoor water venues for water quality one year before the Games.

The International Triathlon Union contracted water-quality tests for the site of the 1500m swim along Copacabana Beach and received results that showed the water met the standard for competition, according to The Associated Press.

Athletes at the three water venues shared by canoeing, sailing, rowing, triathlon and open-water swimming have a 99 percent chance of infection if they ingested three teaspoons of water, a U.S. expert in risk assessment for waterborne viruses said in an Associated Press report last week.

American World champion Gwen Jorgensen, who won Sunday’s event to qualify for her second Olympics and extend her unbeaten run to 12 races, said it was a “normal” race, that she was informed the water testing showed it met competitive standards months ago and that athletes were advised of preventative medications they could take before the event, but she felt safe enough competing in Brazilian open water for the first time not to take anything.

“There’s a standard that has to be met, and the standards were met,” Jorgensen said of the water in a phone interview Monday. “We swim in waters all around the world, and this was no different from anywhere else.”

Great Britain’s Non Stanford, who finished second to Jorgensen, skipped pre-race swim practice sessions due to concerns over the water quality but praised the event’s organization, according to the Guardian.

“Since we arrived, everything has gone like clockwork,” Stanford said, according to the newspaper. “The road surface is good, it is safe and the crowd support is fantastic.”

Brit Vicky Holland, the third-place finisher, had no concerns in comments to beIN Sports.

“We’ve been fairly well reassured that the water quality is above the standard we need it to be to swim in, so I take that as written,” she reportedly said. “If it says it’s OK, it’s OK.”

American Sarah True finished fourth Sunday, making her second U.S. Olympic team, and said after the race that the water quality was “a risk” for the triathletes.

“Obviously, it’s a concern,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “Ultimately the Olympic dream is so strong that sometimes we put the pursuit of excellence above our health.

“It’s been an interesting learning experience over the last few days. I think some athletes went back to Biology 101 to learn the difference between bacteria and viruses. It’s kind of eye-opening for me that people didn’t differentiate the two.”

New Zealand’s two-time Olympian Andrea Hewitt ingested water Sunday but said she felt good after the race, according to the New Zealand Herald.

“There’s lakes around here with rubbish, but I couldn’t see anything in the sea,” Hewitt reportedly said. “I would have found out by now if I had something. It’s a pretty nice beach here at Copacabana; it seems as clean as any other beach.”

British Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee said before the race that triathletes were resigned to a degree of risk, according to the Guardian.

“I think it is an unfortunate fact that in any inner-city venue questions are going to get asked, whether it is London or Stockholm or wherever we race,” Brownlee said, according to the newspaper. “I’m no stranger to dirty water. I’ve swum in a lot worse than this, to be honest.”

Two more U.S. Olympic hopefuls who competed in Rio, Katie and Tommy Zaferes, said Monday the water quality issue was not a concern.

“I feel the media blew the water quality issue out of proportion,” Katie Zaferes said in a comment provided by USA Triathlon. “ITU [International Triathlon Union] monitored tests of the water quality, and I trust them to make a decision that doesn’t endanger the welfare of the athletes. I did not take any medication to prepare for the swim because I didn’t see the water as a concern. The water was great and I enjoyed a recovery swim and some body surfing in the waves after the race.”

“As an athlete who has grown up around the ocean, and swam in rivers, lakes, and ponds around the globe, the Rio water was nothing new,” Tommy Zaferes said in a comment provided by USA Triathlon. “I had no problem doing the swim course preview, racing, and even adding a body surfing session the day after. All the media hubbub was an unnecessary distraction. There is a risk riding your bike, running in the sun, or just eating at a restaurant.”

Before the race, USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach said in a statement that the organization was in “direct conversation” with its athletes and “listening closely to any concerns.”

“Athlete safety is always of the utmost importance to USA Triathlon, and we take this situation very seriously,” he said Thursday. “We will continue to work collaboratively with all involved organizations and federations to help protect the health of those competing at the Olympic and Paralympic test events in Rio. We have been assured by applicable regulatory bodies that the water quality meets required standards. As part of our overall efforts, we are offering a preventative medical management plan on-site to all of our athletes.”

Sailors will compete in their Rio 2016 venue at Guanabara Bay next week, as they did last August.

US Sailing official: Guanabara is safe place to compete

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Plenty was going badly for Coco Gauff in the second round of the Australian Open.

The double-faults kept coming Wednesday, nine in all. The deficits, too: First, she dropped the opening set against 74th-ranked Sorana Cirstea.

Then, after forcing a third, Gauff fell behind by a break, ceding 14 of 16 points with a series of mistakes. Later, after getting even at 3-all, Gauff was a mere two points from a loss.

None of that mattered. As she keeps showing, over and over, Gauff is not a typical 15-year-old. Not a typical tennis player, either.

And by getting past Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a little more than two hours thanks to a more aggressive approach in the late going, she now has set up yet another Grand Slam showdown against Naomi Osaka.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

“I kind of felt the momentum changing,” Gauff said about turning things around against Cirstea. “I knew I had to keep pressing.”

Less than five months after their memorable meeting at the U.S. Open — Osaka won that one in straight sets, then consoled a crying Gauff on court and encouraged her to address the spectators — the two will face each other again. Like that time, Osaka is the major’s reigning champion and Gauff is making her debut at the tournament.

“I think I’ll be less nervous this time,” said Gauff, who eliminated seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the first round Monday. “I think I’m more confident this time around.”

As for what sticks with her about the post-match comforting Osaka offered in New York, Gauff said: “If I had a child or something, that’s something I would want my child to see. It just shows what being a competitor really is. You might hate the person on the court, but off the court you love them — not really, like, ‘hate,’ but you want to win. Sometimes when we’re on the court, we say things we don’t mean because we have that mentality. When it’s all said and done, we still look at each other with respect.”

Other winners included Serena Williams — 6-2, 6-3 against Tamara Zidansek in a match that finished with the Rod Laver Arena retractable roof closed because of rain — No. 1 Ash Barty, 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and two-time major champion Petra Kvitova, the runner-up to Osaka in Australia a year ago.

Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic required all of 95 minutes to breeze past Japanese wild-card entry Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, while Roger Federer swept Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-4, 6-1.

Gauff was not at her very best on a windy afternoon against Cirstea but managed to figure her way out of trouble repeatedly. Gauff demonstrated plenty of grit, yes, and also enthusiasm, pumping herself up by shaking a fist and yelling, “Come on!” after most of her successful points down the stretch.

All the while, Gauff was supported by a Melbourne Arena crowd that chanted, “Let’s go, Coco! Let’s go!”

Her father, Corey, was animated in the stands, too, except when he was squeezing his eyes shut at critical moments.

There were several of those for his precocious daughter, who was ranked only 313th last year when she became the youngest player in history to qualify for Wimbledon, then wound up beating Williams there en route to the fourth round.

It is a measure of her came-so-soon stardom that Gauff was playing at Melbourne Park’s third-largest stadium Wednesday, even though this was a matchup between a pair of players ranked outside the top 60 and with one career Grand Slam quarterfinal between them, more than a decade ago (Cirstea made it that far at the 2009 French Open).

Indeed, every Grand Slam singles match — “every” being a relative term, of course, because this was No. 9 — of the 67th-ranked Gauff’s nascent career has been placed on a show court.

This was the first main draw match at a major for Gauff in which she held a better ranking than her opponent.

Didn’t seem that way at the outset: Gauff dropped the first set. After forcing things to a third, she trailed 3-0. After making it 3-3, Gauff needed to get through one more gut-check: Twice, she was two points from departing.

But the American teenager broke in the next-to-last game, then held to win.

How did Gauff get through this test?

“Just my will to win,” she said. “My parents, they always told me I can come back, no matter what the score is.”

Osaka worked through some frustrations Wednesday by grabbing her racket with both hands and chucking it to the ground, tossing away a tennis ball and kicking the racket along the court, to boot.

Then she plopped herself down on her sideline seat and draped a towel over her head. Soon, she was gathering herself and defeating Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4.

“I mean, my racket just magically flew out of my hand. I couldn’t control it,” Osaka said with a mischievous smile. “I think that’s how I dealt with my frustration. It was a bit childish. I just want to play one match without throwing my racket or kicking it. That’s all I want.”

Perhaps because her news conference took place while Gauff and Cirstea were still playing, Osaka deflected a question seeking some sort of lookahead to the third round, saying simply she would go watch the end of that match.

MORE: Another top U.S. tennis player cools on Olympics

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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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