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Olympics: NZ rowers going all out to avoid germs

Mahe Drysdale went into Beijing single sculls final with an illness. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Mahe Drysdale went into Beijing single sculls final with an illness. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Minimising finger use on door handles, no machine-dried hands and 48-hour visitor quarantine periods are among the steps Rowing New Zealand is taking to ensure healthy crews take the water at Dorney Lake this weekend for the Olympic Games.

In the wake of the illness which derailed Mahe Drysdale's Beijing campaign, the emphasis has gone on hygiene. A spokesperson for health and safety from Waikato hospital even came to speak to the crews before they departed for Europe.

Drysdale has stressed it has to be kept in perspective.

"You have to be a bit more careful but I'm not going to be wearing a mask or not shaking someone's hand. That's just going overboard. You can still be walking down the street and catch something. You've got to do a risk/benefit analysis."

In addition to cleanliness and quarantine issues the team has been provided with a bed-and-breakfast establishment to hang out during the day. It means they avoid extra travel to and from their hotel. The backyard includes striped beach chairs, shady trees and an expansive lawn with wind-buffering hedges.

Defending men's double sculls world champion Joseph Sullivan says the country house offers peace of mind.

"Rowing New Zealand has done a fantastic job sorting this for us. It's basically four hours of our day we're not wasting. We can relax and get away from all other athletes should a bug spread.

"Allowing no visitors who are newcomers to England is a sensible plan, too. They have to stay away for 48 hours. It's a small precaution but worth it when you consider what's at stake. We can still shake hands but a fair bit of hand sanitiser is being dished out, like before meals. If you're sick it's common sense to stay away from athletes."

Quadruple sculls crew member Matthew Trott says it's about doing the basics well.

"I've got into the habit of scrubbing my hands thoroughly, getting right in between the fingers. However, I won't use the air blowers in any toilet block to dry them. They practically suck the crap air out of the toilet block, heat it up and bake it onto your hands. What's the point in doing that when you've just cleaned them? The best thing is to just shake them and walk out. I might relent with a paper towel but I'm not wiping them with one of those dirty old towels either."

Trott, who has recently overcome slipped discs in his back to get back in the boat for his debut Games, says his regime extends to the hotel and his room.

"We've each got our own room and they're spotless. I'm also careful opening doors. I don't wrap my whole hand around the knob or handle. I use a couple of fingers at most; it's a disgusting thought otherwise, but some people like me might be more pedantic. Diet is important too. I'm getting as many vegetables and at least a couple of pieces of fruit into me each day to stave off illness."

- Herald on Sunday

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