American Press, Professor Warns About Olympic Waters

American Press, Professor Warns About Olympic Waters

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Christine Brennan of the USA Today and other reporters and specialists like Professor Kristina Mena, Waterborne Virus Expert at the University of Texas, continue to warn about the “sewage-infested waters” of Rio de Janeiro.

The chance of the Olympic athletes becoming infected, reaching as high as 99%,” predicts Mena in an article in USA Today. “We’re talking about an extreme environment, where the pollution is so high that exposure is imminent and the chance of infection very likely.”

The Associated Press writes that the waters of Rio de Janeiro are to be “so contaminated with human feces that (athletes) risk becoming violently ill.”

Even arguably the most influential media personality in American swimming, Mel Stewart, recently told the Associated Press that if his daughter were a contender in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Copacabana Beach, he would tell her not to compete.

A gold medal is not worth jeopardizing your health. Right now there are too many questions. I don’t see safety. It doesn’t appear at this point that the athletes are being thought of first.”

Despite the reports by the Associated Press, Professor Mena, Christine Brennan and Mel Stewart, we have a different opinion based on our personal experience over the years. We have visited the site of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil once every year for the past 5 years, participating in the King and Queen of the Sea event and working out daily in Copacabana Beach. We have swum in all kinds of conditions in at least 30 different occasions in Copacabana Beach: wavy and tranquil, windy and calm, rainy and blistering hot.

We have run on the beach and swum both inside the breakers and well outside the waves with several Olympic athletes and professional marathon swimmers along the Olympic 10K course during their warm-up sessions and for longer training swims. These athletes have included both Brazilian and non-Brazilian athletes at the highest echelon of the sport including Keri-Anne Payne, Chad Ho, Ashley Twitchell, Alex Meyer, Chip Peterson, Christine Jennings, Trent Grimsey, Alexander Studzinski, Alice Franco, Valerio Cleri, Oussama Mellouli, Allan do Carmo, Pilar Geijo, Yasunari Hirai, Ana Marcela Cunha, Poliana Okimoto, Xavier Desharnais, Aaron Peirsol, Zsofia Balazs, Thomas Lurz, Betina Lorscheitter, Lexie Kelly, and many others.

While we understand and have seen the data on water quality, we never felt the water quality was significantly less than most other big-city urban beaches – and we were not worried about our health or getting violently ill.

Even after a heavy rain where the urban runoff was obvious in Copacabana Beach a few years ago when there were areas in Copacabana Beach with floating rubbish, there was never a time when either ourselves or other athletes from around the world were worried, fell ill, started to vomit, or even got a skin rash due to the water quality.

In contrast to the information that is being shared, the water quality appears to be acceptable to us – and we have swum all over the world in every continent outside of Antarctica. We are certain that if our daughter were a contender in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, we would be right there on the shoreline cheering her on.

For an opposing viewpoint, read here (AP test: Rio Olympic water badly polluted, even far offshore). We will visit Copacabana Beach next week, together with American media representatives, to confirm whether the opinions of Brennan and Professor Mena are closer to the truth than what we have experienced first hand over dozens of ocean swims at least 30 minutes length in Copacabana Beach.

Photo shows Chad Ho, Valerio Cleri, Alexander Studzinski, Oussama Mellouli, and Allan do Carmo at the King and Queen of the Sea elite grid race in Rio de Janeiro.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association