British team plan to beat the heat with special chamber

BISHAM ABBEY (Reuters) - The British Olympic team plan to beat the heat at the Beijing Olympics with the help of an environmental chamber that simulates the Chinese capital’s stifling temperatures and humidity.

The seven-meter by seven-meter room filled with exercise machines is the largest non-military chamber of its kind in Britain and unique in that it can simulate different temperatures and humidity as well as altitude.

“Medals are separated by very tiny, tiny amounts,” Scott Drawer, a scientist at UK Sport whose organization supports British Olympic athletes, told a news conference on Wednesday. “So it is crucial we cover every base we can.”

He said officials monitored athletes in the chamber, set to around 30 degrees Celsius and about 70 percent humidity, to see how their bodies responded to the heat and humidity during exercise.

Dawer said some athletics might need a cooling vest before an event while dipping feet into a bucket of cold water or drinking certain amounts of liquids might work better for others.

“It is impossible to have a blanket approach because every sport has different demands and each individual responds differently,” he added. “We certainly know that thermal stress generally is the major challenge we need to be on top of.”

While the issue of pollution has generated a lot of headlines in the run up to the games, the British team sees the heat as the biggest challenge and potential risk for its athletes.

Like all nations preparing for the games, Britain has a few strategies which officials politely decline to disclose in hopes of gaining that extra edge.

“We won’t share all of the lessons we’ve learned because we believe that some of them will continue to deliver us a competitive advantage,” said Marco Cardinale, head of sports and science research at the British Olympic Association.

Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by John Mehaffey