Commonwealth Games: Drysdale advises Kiwi team to keep it clean

By Andrew Alderson

Mahe Drysdale needed urgent medical attention. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Mahe Drysdale needed urgent medical attention. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Rower Mahe Drysdale has warned New Zealand athletes heading to the Commonwealth Games to pay meticulous attention to their hygiene.

The four-time world champion is one who knows. His dream of Olympic gold was thwarted at Beijing after contracting a bug ahead of the singles sculls final.

He eventually took bronze after fading from the lead in the final metres of the race and the severity of his illness was illustrated when Drysdale vomited out of his boat soon after finishing.

Hygiene has been given a lot of lip service in the lead up to Delhi but Drysdale says athletes can't pay enough attention to keeping bugs away. There's little they can do to ward off dengue fever, other than use mosquito repellent, but precautions can be taken against other illnesses.

"There are things you can and can't control," he says. "You've got to be sensible and pedantic about hand-washing and carrying around hand sanitiser. In a shared environment with a lot of people, anything you touch has germs.

"While you've got to have some trust in the hygiene of a Games environment, my other recommendations would be not to use tap water to brush your teeth. Keep bottled water on hand all the time.

"You've got to be especially careful around the food hall - don't be stupid and eat from stalls outside the competition facilities."

Drysdale has also stressed the need to isolate individuals once they are ill. He says that has happened numerous times on rowing tours.

"You can't afford to have any more people than necessary go down."

Former Black Sticks hockey captain Suzie Muirhead has advised athletes to be careful at training grounds, too.

"We played in Delhi and the turf can carry germs. If you dive on the surface you can take skin off then you're left disinfecting wounds. Training in long shorts or tights helps so nothing 'yuck' gets into your bloodstream."

Muirhead has a couple of other tips. "Make sure the ice is clean for the baths afterwards, and it helps if your whole team likes curry. A couple of our girls didn't."

Daniel Healey is the director of sports nutrition at the New Zealand Academy of Sport.

He's working closely with the cycling team in Delhi but was recruited to manage aspects of the whole New Zealand team's nutrition.

That has included perfecting the 'slurry' ice drink which athletes take to replenish their energy and cool down their systems before, during and after competition in what is expected, for the most part, to be a 28-32-degree dry heat.

Healey is taking scrupulous care, given the environment the cyclists will be working in.

"It's my role to ensure all drink bottles are sanitised after every training and competition session," he says.

"It's laborious work but hygiene is our best defence against bacterial infection.

"I'll also be assessing the daily health of each athlete for things such as stomach cramps and nausea, as well as checking for a frequent bowel motion.

"These conditions can be indications of pending sickness, which can spread rapidly across the bike squad and the rest of the team."

- Herald on Sunday

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