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NZ rowers wary of more Rio pollution

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/05/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

New Zealand's leading rowers will take a cautious approach when they compete at the polluted Olympic venue.

In the latest setback for Rio Games organisers, wastewater discharge was discovered leaking into the already-tainted Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.

The state of the venue where rowing and canoeing will be staged has long been held up as a chief concern by international federations.

The powerful Kiwi rowing group were doing their best to play the problem down, but one half of the world champion men's pair, Hamish Bond, admits it will be difficult to ignore.

"You can't completely prevent contact with water so it's certainly not ideal if it brings down one of our team, or even our competition," he told NZ Newswire.

"It's not something you'd wish on anyone who's put in four years of work, to have that taken away by something that's theoretically so preventable."

Bond, who is favoured to defend his London gold alongside Eric Murray, took solace that the risk is the same for every athlete.

Rowing NZ is taking regular updates about conditions from world body FISA while the New Zealand Olympic Committee continues to provide stringent health advice.

Single sculler Emma Twigg visited the venue last year and noted conditions worsened following rain, which caused run-off from surrounding hills.

She took heart that none of the 22-strong New Zealand team suffered any ill effects during last August's world junior championships in Rio.

"The danger is obviously any faecal matter that is potentially spilling, which makes it extremely high risk for us," she said.

"We'll try and take all the precautions we can."

Nine Kiwi crews have qualified for Rio while the other five leave on Monday for Lucerne, which hosts the "sudden death" qualifying regatta.

That includes 2014 world champion Twigg, who took last year off to study in Europe.

She is expected to achieve her target of a top-three finish to book a Rio berth.

Top-two placings are required by the men's and women's quads, men's lightweight four and lightweight men's double sculls.

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