Friday, July 23, 2021/Tokyo-
A Russian archer fainted in intense heat during Olympic qualifying and the rowing schedule was changed with the Tokyo weather in the spotlight as the Games officially opened.
Svetlana Gomboeva, 23, collapsed while checking her scores. She regained consciousness and left on a stretcher.
Earlier this week experts said Tokyo’s heat and humidity could pose a significant threat to competitors.
Monday’s rowing races have switched to Sunday to avoid “unrowable” conditions.
The Japanese Environment Agency has issued heatstroke alerts, warning the public not to exercise outside.
With temperatures of around 33C in the archery dome on the sport’s first day of competition on Friday, athletes had challenges with hydration and staying cool, while support staff huddled in shaded areas.
“It turns out that she [Gomboeva] couldn’t stand a whole day out in the heat,” said Russian Olympic Committee coach Stanislav Popov.
“This is the first time I remember this happening. In Vladivostok, where we were training before this, the weather was similar. But humidity played a role here.”
Meanwhile, World Rowing said concerns over inclement weather had prompted a change to the rowing programme, which also included moving the men’s and women’s eights heats from Sunday to Saturday.
“Adverse weather is expected which would bring high winds and strong gusts creating probably unequal and potentially unrowable racing conditions,” the governing body said.
There have also been reports of beach volleyball players complaining that the sand is too hot for their feet and officials having to hose down the courts.
When the Olympic games were last held in Tokyo, in 1964, they were pushed back to autumn to avoid high temperatures.
This time around, the marathon and race-walking events have been moved to the cooler city of Sapporo, while a range of other measures, including mist-spraying stations for Olympic horses and cooling vests for referees, have been employed to help reduce the risks to athletes.
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‘It’s been a little bit of a shock to the system’
Those taking part in the rowing had to battle blustery conditions as racing got under way on Friday at the Sea Forest Waterway.
“In some respects, it’s really nice that the wind can be this strong and the water stays very rowable,” said Britain’s John Collins, 32, who advanced to Sunday’s double sculls semi-finals.
“I remember thinking back to Rio [2016 Olympics], a butterfly flapped its wings on one side of the lake and it was unrowable on the course. This is a bit of a relief in that respect.”
The heat is another proposition, though, with Collins’ team-mate Graeme Thomas adding the duo had used ice packs and air conditioning to combat the sweltering conditions.