Serbian rowers Milos Vasic and Nenad Benik got a taste of the Rio water on the first day of the Olympic regatta Saturday.
In an unusual moment, the duo’s boat capsized, tossing them into the water. According to the Associated Press, it’s the first time a boat has capsized in the Olympics since Athens in 2004.
While rowers usually have to cross the finish line to complete the race, officials gave the Serbian team an exemption, pulling them into their boat and allowing them to compete in the next round on Sunday, according to AP.
After the race, both men and women rowers blasted the racing conditions, which seem to have caused Vasic and Benik to capsize. Kim Brennan, the women’s single scull world champion, said, “I was pretty close to sinking out there… Normally this would have been deemed unrowable.”
According to The Guardian, Irish sculler Sanita Puspure called the conditions “horrific,” saying:
“It was like sailing, surfing, everything all in one and a bit of rowing in the end. I was just thrown around with the wind. I couldn’t get the blades in at the same time. At one stage I was blown parallel to the racing lane so I had to tack with one arm into the lane, which is probably unseen before — a person doing one-arm rowing during a race. I was pretty helpless.”
Egyptian sculler Nadia Negm told the Guardian, “Thank God I didn’t go under. It’s the toughest conditions I have ever rowed in. It was really intense. I wish the rest of the racers good luck — if you are rowing this week you better know how to swim.”
After the race, Matt Smith, the executive director of rowing’s governing body, explained that they didn’t postpone the race on Saturday because conditions are supposed to get worse in the coming days. He said, if necessary, because it’s a small regatta, they can make up a day of missed events. However, should they have to cancel multiple days, he warned that they may have to drop events.
While the conditions don’t look especially bad to the naked eye, the water does appear choppy, and the light boats Olympic rowers use aren’t difficult to knock over:
British single sculler Alan Campbell had a simple, but funny message going forward. According to AP, Campbell pointed to the Christ the Redeemer statue and said, “He needs to spread his arms a bit more to protect us.”
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