Thursday, August 21, 2008

A great Olympic smorgasbord experience

Yesterday was a great Olympic smorgasbord experience, as I was able to see and provide medical coverage for a variety of events. I provided medical coverage for the "marathon" swim (10 kilometer) in the morning, synchronized swimming in the afternoon, women's 10 meter platform diving in the evening, then went to the National Stadium ("Birds Nest") for track and field at night. Quite a day! One of the great things about the Olympic Games is the opportunity to see so many world class events and athletes in the same day. At the track last night I had the opportunity to watch several track athletes who I had treated in competition.

This was the first time that there was a 10 kilometer swim in the Olympic Games. This is essentially an "open water" swim, which is a growing sport internationally. The event is being held at the rowing venue, which is a man-made course. The swimmers complete 4 laps of a 2.5 kilometer course. There are distinct challenges in distance swimming, somewhat akin to the marathon run. The athletes need to feed and drink during the race. This is done by coaches using a long stick to pass food/drink to the athlete at "feeding stations" on a dock. Hypothermia is a concern in many open water races that are swam in lakes or ocean. However, since this race was contested in a relatively shallow basin, the water was warm. Dehydration is a concern in these situations, so we assured that the athletes maintain appropriate hydration. The race lasts approximately 2 hours, similar to a marathon run. The race was won by a Dutch athlete who had previously been treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma (this has been widely reported in the press), making for a great story.

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