Next year’s Tokyo Olympics are expected to be the hottest ever, and NZ athletes are preparing for the sweltering conditions with a special heat chamber.
World-class opposition won’t be the only thing standing between New Zealand’s top athletes and success at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Next year’s Games in Japan are expected to be the hottest in Olympic history.
It’s a prediction that’s had Kiwi officials working for three years on a strategy to ensure the performance of their athletes isn’t overly impacted by the sweltering conditions.
A strategy they believe can provide New Zealand’s best with a competitive advantage.
A key part of the approach has been a small room, nestled away inside the Millienium Institute on Auckland’s North Shore.
For sailor Molly Meech, a silver medallist alongside Alex Maloney at the 2016 Games in Rio, High Performance Sport New Zealand’s heat chamber could be the difference between delight and disappointment.
“Being aware of the heat, like everyone’s talking about it, but actually doing this and then experiencing Japan itself, it’s going to be a pretty key factor in being able to control how you react in the heat.
“I think it can be a definite game changer.”
While temperatures of nearly 40 degrees are predicted for the 2020 Games, the addition of high humidity could mean it almost feels like 50.
Conditions not only of risk to performance but equally athlete health.
The head of High Performance Sport New Zealand’s heat strategy for Tokyo, Julia Casadio, said the heat chamber caused physiological changes in the athletes, making them better equipped to handle the conditions.
“The sailors, when they are competing, they’re on the water for up to three or four hours.
“To simulate that is pretty challenging but if we get them in there 60 minutes to 90 minutes, five days a week for a couple of weeks, that’s usually enough to give them the adaptations they need.”
The chamber is set at 32 degrees but is designed to feel like 37 when the humidity is cranked up to 80 per cent.
Once the door shuts behind you it doesn’t take long for the sweat to start pouring.