Smooth triathlon test cheers Olympic organisers

Swimmers jumping into the Odaiba Marina Park in Tokyo for the triathlon mixed relay, one of the 2020 Olympics test events. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Swimmers jumping into the Odaiba Marina Park in Tokyo for the triathlon mixed relay, one of the 2020 Olympics test events. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • France won a thrilling mixed triathlon test event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics yesterday which went as planned in a welcome boost for organisers after difficulties with high temperatures and water pollution.

The swimming leg of the paratriathlon on Saturday was scrapped after water tests showed levels of e-coli bacteria more than double the acceptable standard, and the running section of a women's test event on Thursday was cut short in blistering temperatures, with French athlete Cassandre Beaugrand treated for heatstroke.

But with the temperature in Tokyo a slightly cooler 30 deg C yesterday, the levels of bacteria at the Odaiba Marine Park reduced to within permitted levels.

The mixed relay, a new event for the Games, involving two men and two women, was won by France in a photo finish after a nail-biting final sprint with Britain.

The format is much shorter than the individual race with each athlete completing a 300m swim, a 7.4km cycle and a 2km run before handing off to a teammate, making it less demanding in hot weather.

"I don't think conditions were as bad as Thursday when we raced," said South Africa's Gillian Sanders, who added that the water quality also felt better. "I don't think it's too hot not to race or too hot to reduce the distance."

Battling the heat of the sweltering summer has become the main challenge for Tokyo 2020 organisers.

Yasuo Mori, deputy executive director of the Games Operations Bureau, said athletes need to have greater access to water during the race.

"That alone would lower the risk of athletes getting heatstroke. That may be one of the realistic measures," he told reporters.

The International Triathlon Union would examine increasing the number of water supply points and was deploying medical staff every 500m along the course in case of an emergency, Mori added.

Aside from the problems at the triathlon, about a dozen people, including a spectator, were taken ill at a rowing test event last week with suspected heatstroke.

A construction worker also died on an Olympic site as Tokyo sweats through a prolonged and deadly heatwave.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'Smooth triathlon test cheers Olympic organisers'. Print Edition | Subscribe