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Australia hunts lost London gold in 'awesome' Rio

  • Published at 09:49 pm August 3rd, 2016
  • Last updated at 07:27 pm August 8th, 2016
Australia hunts lost London gold in 'awesome' Rio

The biggest problem some Australian rowers are having to adjust to in Rio de Janeiro is minding their strokes in the face of the majestic views on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon course.

"The only problem I've had so far is focusing on rowing in the face of all this awesome scenery," said Karsten Fosterling, a member of the country's quadruple sculls entry, one of Australia's two main hopes for gold.

As with other watersports venues at Rio 2016, the Lagoon, a dark-blue, brackish tidal lake that sits between the outstretched right arm of the Christ the Redeemer statue atop a line of jungle-covered granite mountains and the beach front neighborhood of Ipanema, has faced harsh criticism.

Studies found high levels of bacteria and other pathogens in the water despite promises to clean up the Lagoon. During test events, some athletes blamed the venue for making them sick.

Part of the Australian team, but not the rowers, were critical of unfinished or damaged rooms at the Olympic Village and alleged that computers were stolen after a small fire broke out there last week.

Fosterling, 36, his boat mates Cameron Girdlestone, 28, James McRae, 29, and Sasha Belonogoff, 26, say they are taking "normal" precautions.

These include keeping water bottles in ziploc bags and using mouthwash and taking showers after training, said team leader Ray Ebert.

Fosterling's biggest worry is holding off powerhouses Germany, Estonia and Ukraine, and getting the ore-feel for the Lagoon, Fosterling said.

He said the brackish lagoon, a mix of sea water and spring and rain-fed mountain streams, is denser and more buoyant than their more recent freshwater racing and training locations.

Kim Brennan, 30, Australia's gold medal favourite in the women's single sculls, said the problems brought up before Olympics tend to get overblown.

"My experience is very different than what we read in the press," she told Reuters. "There has been a lot of criticism about the water in the lake, but this would have to be close to the most picturesque place I've ever been in my life."

The water quality, she added, appears better than when she trained in Rio last year and she has faced bacterial risks before, even at her home club on Australia's Yarra River.

"I'm from Melbourne and after heavy rains people can smell something that isn't restricted to Rio," she said.

Australia has won 10 Olympic rowing gold medals, but went winless in London in 2012 after collecting two golds in 2008.