By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Under blazing winter sunshine and in temperatures of up to 34 degrees athletes took to the waters off Rio de Janeiro this weekend, August 22nd and 23rd, to compete in the Aquece Rio Marathon Swimming and Sailing test events. Both events passed off successfully, serving as practices ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Brazil’s Allan do Carmo won the men’s Aquece Rio Marathon Swim in the sea at Copacabana Fort on Saturday (August 22nd) completing the ten kilometer circuit in two hours, three minutes and 53.9 seconds, beating Yasunari Hirai of Japan by only half a second. Richard Weinberger of Canada came in third among a field of 22 athletes.
On Sunday, Great Britain’s Keri-Anne Payne won the women’s race in two hours, twelve minutes and 18.7 seconds. Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil came in second and Germany’s Isabelle Harle finished third.
The event was held shortly after the world championships and so the finish times are expected to be even tighter at next year’s Olympics when the athletes will be at peak fitness. Competitors commented on the beauty of the course, noting in particular the view of Rio landmarks like Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf, as well as enjoying the chance to swim in open water. At the past two Olympic Games in Beijing and London the swimming marathons were held in lakes.
One hundred and fifty people worked at the test event including sixty full-time staff and ninety volunteers. Bernardo Villano, Rio 2016’s Copacabana venue manager was pleased with how the event ran. “Overall, we can say that the results have been positive,” he said. “Fort Copacabana is on the right track for the Rio 2016 Games.”
After eight days of sailing at Marina de Glória, nineteen different nations won medals. Brazilian pair, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, won gold in the 49erFX competition securing their position as home favorites and hopefuls for next year’s Olympics. Brazil was represented in all ten classes and passed through to the final stages in half of them.
Of the six sailing courses, three ran inside Guanabara Bay and three were further out in the Atlantic. Windy conditions meant alterations were made to the schedule but the choice of courses gave some flexibility. The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) said it would confirm which would be used for the Olympic Games in the next few weeks.
Peter Sowrey, chief of the ISAF, said that the event had gone “pretty well” operationally but added that the federation would consider moving events into the Atlantic if the water cleanliness does not reach an acceptable level. His comments came after one of the courses in Guanabara Bay was closed due to floating debris. Throughout the event there have been worries about the levels of bacteria and viruses in the water, as well as rubbish.
Further test events will take place next month, stating with Beach Volleyball on September 1st.