Belgian sailor Evie Van Acker is the first Olympian to become sick after sailing in Rio’s polluted Guanabara Bay, the AP reports.
Van Acker, who won bronze in the Laser Radial class in 2012, reportedly felt under the weather after sailing on Wednesday. Now she is in danger of missing the medal round later this week.
According to the AP, Van Acker also got sick from sailing Guanabara Bay during a test event in July. She had reportedly not fully recovered as of Wednesday.
“Evi caught a bacteria in early July that causes dysentery,” coach Wil Van Bladel told the AP. “Doctors say this can seriously disrupt energy levels for three months. It became clear yesterday that she lacked energy during tough conditions. She could not use full force for a top condition. … The likelihood that she caught it here during contact with the water is very big.”
The Belgian Olympic Committee told the AP in a statement that Van Acker had a “serious gastrointestinal infection a few weeks ago.” They added: “”She has not fully recovered. It makes it difficult for her to go through long periods of sustained effort.”
World Sailing spokesman Darryl Seibel said that Van Acker’s illness appears to be an isolated case, as she is the only sailor who was reported feeling sick in the first days of the sailing events.
Guanabara Bay’s pollution was one of the most highly scrutinised topics in the lead-up to the Olympics. A 16-month study by the AP showed that both Guanabara Bay and Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon were teeming with dangerous levels of bacteria, viruses, and raw human sewage.
“Don’t put your head underwater,” Dr. Valerie Harwood, the chair of the University of South Florida’s department of integrative biology, warned athletes ahead of the Olympics.
Van Acker has struggled early on in Rio. She is 10th overall in her event with four races left prior to the medals race. This would qualify her for the medals race, but put her off the podium — assuming she’s feeling well enough to compete.
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