RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rowers packed up their oars for the day while cyclists hit slippery roads on skinny time-trial bikes unsuited to harsh weather conditions as sun-drenched Rio turned blustery, wet and gray on Wednesday.
Strong winds rattled palm trees along the coast and whipped up waves on the scenic lagoon where rowing was canceled for a full day for the second time at the Rio Olympics.
Twenty-two races, including the first two medal races, were postponed but international rowing federation director Matt Smith said there’s still room on the schedule without having to resort to drastic measures – even if Thursday’s competition is also called off.
“If Friday morning at 10 o’clock we are sitting here, we may have to lose some races,” Smith said.
The regatta already lost a day to bad weather on Sunday, but race officials made up for it by rescheduling heats for Monday and Tuesday.
Under dark skies, cyclists braved lashing rain and wind on the time-trial course along Rio’s southern coast. Ellen van Dijk of the Netherlands slid off the road. Although she stayed on her bike, she got tangled in weeds, which may have cost her a medal. She finished fourth.
Gold-medalist Kristin Armstrong of the U.S. said she got a bit concerned when she woke up at 4:30 a.m. and looked out the window.
“I had a choice at that moment to take it and get super nervous and say, ‘Oh my gosh,'” she said. “Or I could say, ‘I’ve probably ridden in the rain on my time-trial bike more than anybody out here,’ so I just tricked my mind and said, ‘Take it,'” Armstrong said.
Time-trial bikes have skinny tires and aerodynamics that don’t always work well in the wind.
The men’s competition took place in similar weather, with parts of the course drenched in rain and others more or less dry.
The biggest problem for rowers is not so much the rain as the wind. On Saturday, the competition went ahead despite choppy waters that left rowers struggling to keep their boats balanced.
Some athletes who struggled in the waves said the races should have been postponed, but rowing officials insisted the conditions were the same for everyone.
“It’s much more stressful when we have unfair wind,” said Smith, recalling how at the London Olympics the wind sometimes varied from lane to lane.
by Karl Ritter (AP)