OJ 2020: the French plan to fight against heat


We promise them hell, temperatures flirting with the 30 degrees and especially humidity levels around 80%. What hurt organisms and especially endanger months of preparation. "The more humid the air, the less sweat can evaporate, and the lower the body temperature," says Philippe Le Van, doctor at Insep.

The triathlete Cassandre Beaugrand, victim of an insolation during the test event last August, knows something about it. "The sky was overcast and at the time of the women's race, the clouds disappeared," recalls Benjamin Maze, the national technical director (DTN). "When the sky becomes azure, the heat is unbearable," admits Fanny Mevellec, doctor of the French sailing team.

In the tricolor camp, the Tokyo operation was launched long ago. At Insep, researchers are looking into the phenomenon, the French Triathlon Federation has detached since 2015 a person to work around the impact of heat on performance. "We study the data, some suffer more than others," says Maze, but under extreme conditions, there is a monstrous increase in heartbeats. "

Cooling vests "made in France"

"So we hammer vigilance messages, says Philippe Le Van, who will be responsible for the medical service of the French in Tokyo. Athletes must train in the heat and learn to cool their bodies. At Insep, climatic chambers help to get in shape. In these rooms of 16 square meters, it is possible to train on treadmills by adjusting the temperature and humidity, so as to recreate the conditions of August in Japan.

The French sailing federation has, for its part, unearthed "made in France" refrigerated vests, tested by glassmakers who work through demanding heat. They are lighter, easier to use and the International Federation should allow them in Olympic events.

The latter has already reviewed the thickness of lycra outfits in order to limit the heat. As in the test event, the organizers plan to increase the amount of ice available. In triathlon, team refueling could be allowed. "That would make it possible to adapt to the needs of each competitor, to also provide fresh banners", continues the DTN.

"We work on what the athletes can eat, on the type of drinks and their temperature, on the frequency also refueling," says Dr. Le Van. Inflatable recovery tanks, already used in Beijing in 2008, will also be taken to the sites, including canoeing. This will cool the bodies of athletes very quickly, and prevent them from having to expend too much energy to do so in a natural way.

One thing is certain: the heat will have an impact on the performance. It will therefore be necessary to adapt its strategy, especially at the level of effort management. "But be careful not to switch to psychosis, warns Benjamin Maze. We have known for a long time that the 2020 Olympics are held in Tokyo, we had time to prepare. "


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