Rio 2016 Olympics: Female Belgian rower falls ill after racing on Guanabara Bay

By @vitthernandez on
Evi Van Acker
Belgium's Evi Van Acker sails in the fifth race of the women's Laser Radial class at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Weymouth and Portland, southern England, August 1, 2012. Reuters/Benoit Tessier

Although it was a Kazakhstan and two Serbian rowers who fell into the poop-filled Guanabara Bay, the three male athletes were not reported to have fallen ill because of the accidents. However, a female Belgian rower who trained in Rio de Janeiro’s filthy waters in July is suffering from severe intestinal infection.

Evi Van Acker, a bronze medalist at the London 2012 Olympics, is considered the first Summer Games athlete to have fallen ill because of her exposure to the filthy water of the bay. After Wednesday’s races, she felt sick, according to World Sailing, the sport’s governing body.

Because of her weak performance, Acker runs the risk of not getting a medal in Rio. Wil Van Bladel, her coach, explains that she caught a bacteria in early July that causes dysentery which seriously disrupts energy levels for three months.

She ranked 2nd and 12th on Monday, 2nd and 29th on Tuesday and 16th and 15th in tough conditions on Wednesday. Acker’s overall standing after four races is 10th with 47 points. That is 26 points out of medals position.

“It became clear yesterday that she lacked energy during tough conditions. She could not use full force for a top condition. … The likelihood that she caught it here during contact with the water is very big,” New York Post quotes Bladel.

World Sailing says Acker was evaluated twice by the chief medical officer and the Belgian medical team on Wednesday. Darryl Seibel, spokesman of World Sailing, says Acker’s case seems to be an isolated case since among the rowers, she was the only one who became sick.

Independent studies indicate the poor quality of the bay, but Olympic officials insist it is safe. However, it has not been confirmed that Acker’s ailment is because of the bay’s polluted water, notes Sydney Morning Herald.