Rio Water Quality Concerns on Minds of USRowing Team

By Erin Delmore

“I think all of us are really working hard to make sure that the environment down there is safe and that it’s healthy and that it’s fair so that the results end up being the athletes’ results and not the results of some other factor,” said USRowing High Performance Director Curtis Jordan.

Jordan is entrusted with keeping his athletes safe and healthy during the Rio Olympics, amid concerns about water quality and the Zika virus. To that end, new uniforms: training suits by Boathouse Sports are water repellent, seamless and — perhaps most notably — come with an anti-microbial finish.

“There’s no seams in the garments. It has engineered venting through out critical points in the garments. It includes an engineered lumbar strap in the back the construction of the garment itself is made of a lot of different fibers; very, very, very fine fibers including some fibers or yarns that we produced with anti-microbial features to it,” said Boathouse Sports CEO John Strotbeck.

“We’ve been working with the producer and the manufacturer for almost three months now and trying different uniforms on, different sizes, different approaches to the uniform. We’re really excited about them. They’ve got several different characteristics that we think definitely will help our athletes feel more comfortable, hopefully keep them a little more healthy and with all of that, hope they compete a little bit better,” Jordan said.

It’ll be a couple of weeks before the team has the new training suits in hand. Jordan says athletes will have a good idea of the pros, the cons and the overall fit by the time they decide whether to wear it for competition. One thing the team knows already: Be wary of the water.

Eleven athletes and four coaches fell ill last year while competing in Rio at the World Junior Rowing Championship. The World Rowing Federation said the water’s fine, but an independent analysis by the Associated Press showed high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage at the site of that race and in the city’s other Olympic water sport venues. The USRowing team is hoping their uniform’s anti-microbial finish is as good as it sounds.

“We’re concerned a little bit about the quality of the water down there, so by having this attribute it keeps the athlete a little bit healthier, keeps the chance of them being able to compete stronger,” Jordan said.

Concerns compounded by the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease linked to birth defects in newborn babies.

“We will have a process that we will coat a lot of their clothing with a substance that will protect them. We’ll see how well that works,” Jordan said.

Jordan says the focus now is on training together. The USRowing team finished naming its members last week.

“To have that dream come true is just unbelievable. It’s unbelievable for them, for their family, for their friends, for their loved ones and then all of a sudden that responsibility settles in. Now I’ve got to go perform. Now I’m going to be put on an international stage and asked to produce a medal. And so that little bit of gut kicks in. But that’s athletics, and that’s what makes it great,” he said.

Jordan said he said he wants this team to earn headlines for the work they put in, not the obstacles they overcame.