March 1, 2015 / 3:03 PM / 2 years ago

British sailors ready to battle Rio sewage with fish oil

3 Min Read

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Olympic sailing hopefuls are taking fish oil and probiotic supplements in the hope it will stop them getting ill from contaminated sea water in Rio de Janeiro.

Health hazards posed by raw sewage pumped into the picturesque Guanabara Bay is a big worry for sailors due to compete at the 2016 Games.

Cleaning up the bay was a key promise of Rio's Olympic bid, but the state's leading environmental official said in January that it would not be able to meet its target of cutting the amount of untreated waste flowing into it by 80 percent.

"The sailors are on various supplements to mitigate against it, but we can't do anything about the water quality," the British sailing team's manager Stephen Park told Reuters at the RYA Dinghy Show in London.

Park has yet to make his team selection, but one of Britain's top sailors Nick Thompson, who is looking to be chosen for the Laser and emulate Ben Ainslie's 2000 Sydney gold in the single-handed dinghy, told Reuters he had been very sick at a Rio test regatta last year.

"Water quality is my biggest personal concern. If you are sick during the Games, it's game over," Thompson said, adding that he was "taking probiotic supplements and fish oil to strengthen the gut".

Thompson, 28, said the sailors were taking other precautions such as not re-using water bottles, using mouth wash while out training and drinking flat cola, a long-standing "cure all" among people taking part in sports where water quality is poor.

Thompson also highlighted the problem of physical debris, including shopping trolleys and shoes but said that despite such challenges, he is relishing the prospect of racing against 41-year-old Brazilian Robert Scheidt who is returning to the highly competitive Laser from the Star two-man dinghy.

Park said preparations were going well for the 40-strong British team, which will include 15 sailors, coaches and support staff. What concerned him most was securing accommodation close to the sailing venue and ensuring guaranteed access to the waters to train and build on its knowledge, in order to give the sailors an advantage over their rivals.

"France and Australia are the two teams we most want to beat, but I wouldn't say we fear them," he said earlier during a public event in which he laid out the team's plans for Rio.

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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