New Zealand team dismiss smog fears

BEIJING (Reuters) - The crack New Zealand rowing team on Tuesday dismissed fears that smog would affect their racing and said they were more focused on adapting to the heat and variable wind at the Shunyi course.

Beijing and the Olympic rowing lake have been engulfed in a dull haze in recent days and there had been concerns it would affect the performances of the athletes.

But New Zealand’s former Olympic gold medal winner Rob Waddell and world champion Mahe Drysdale said they had not been troubled by the conditions.

“I haven’t noticed anything negative coming from the pollution,” Waddell, who has returned to the sport after seven years out, told reporters Tuesday.

“Some days there is a bit more smog than others but where we are at the course it has actually been quite clear and it hasn’t been a problem at all.”

Drysdale, the favorite for the single scull event after winning the last three world championships, said he was pleased with the condition of the course.

“It’s pretty good,” he said. “I was here last September and the smog was a lot worse then. So they’ve done a good job in clearing it up.”

Several of the New Zealand squad, including women’s single sculler Emma Twigg and Storm Uru from the lightweight men’s double, said they were more surprised by the heat but that they expected to acclimatize before racing started.

Waddell said they would also have to get accustomed to the wind, which had been different each day.

Racing begins on August9 and finishes on August 17.

Reporting by Kate Holton