Cycling: Pollution puts Cooke gold medal bid at risk
Mar 18 2008 by Phil Blanche, Western Mail
WELSH cycling star Nicole Cooke’s bid for Olympic gold in Beijing this summer could be destroyed by serious pollution problems in the Chinese capital.
High-profile events such as road cycling, the marathon and the triathlon could be scrapped if pollution in Beijing does not improve, the International Olympic Committee warned yesterday.
As well as ending Cooke’s Olympic dream on the road, the ban could also affect fellow Welsh competitor David Davies as the 1,500m bronze medallist from Athens is considering challenging in the inaugural 10km open swim event.
Breathing filters will be made available as a “training aid” to British athletes worried about pollution in Beijing.
UK Sport have commissioned researchers at Brunel University to come up with a breathing filter and prototypes have been made available to cycling and athletics.
The British Olympic Association has also endorsed their use in training or while travelling but the filters will not be used during events.
Peter Keen, UK Sport’s head of performance, said, “The device is not a mask, it’s a filtration device that can take out particulates which can cause respiratory distress.
“It may be useful in all sorts of pollution situations, and arguably the bigger problems in Beijing will be humidity and heat.”
But an IOC medical commission investigation’s into air quality in Beijing in August has concluded there will be some risk to competitors in endurance events.
The events at risk are road cycling, mountain bike, marathon, marathon swimming, triathlon and road walking.
“For a few sports where we do see a possible risk, we will monitor the situation daily during Games time, and take whatever decisions are needed at the time to ensure the athletes’ health is protected,” said Arne Ljungqvist, the head of the IOC’s medical commission.
“The IOC is confident that measures already put in place, plus those planned by Beijing organisers and city authorities, will continue to improve the city’s air quality leading up to – and during – the Games.”
Wick-wonder Cooke, twice World Cup winner and 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, is regarded as being among Wales’ best hopes for medal success in Beijing.
Cooke finished outside the medals in Athens four years ago but has been building towards Beijing ever since.