A Torrid Day in Sydney

Ian Walker and Mark Covell are now regretting picking Room 13 ...

Monday August 28th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Ian Walker and Mark Covell, our British Olympic Star representatives, have been out in Sydney since the middle of August, working up their boat and acclimatising to the conditions. After a couple of weeks of testing against some of their rivals and British tuning partners, life was starting to get into a routine. But they didn't need the disruption they were about to get ...
The first drama occurred when an Israeli 470 was heading out for some practice. Their mast was clipped by a commuter plane flying in to Rose Bay. It's a regular flight, but this one wasn't - it hit the rig at about the hounds, but didn't quite manage to bend it to a right angle. No one was hurt and the plane landed in one piece. Nevertheless, the Israeli's race rig was ruined.

The next action came when Walker and Covell were swapping boats at the end of a tuning run with their British partners, Derek Clark and Chris Mason. With Ian in one boat, Mark in the other and Clark and Mason both in the support boat in mid-swop, a massive squall rolled up from behind and the Stars took off, single-handed. And you know how squirrelly Star rigs are downwind in a breeze. With the same fate as the Israeli's staring them in the face - the loss of the rig - the boys managed to keep it together and the boats in one piece. Although Derek ended up in the water trying to get back aboard, he was only wet, and once more no one was hurt.

Well, they say that these things happen in threes, and maybe when they checked into Room 13 in the British team apartments, they might have wondered if their luck wouldn't hold. And it didn't. That evening, Mark Covell was showering when the water suddenly turned scalding hot. In his efforts to escape, Mark went out through the side of the shower cubicle and bruised his back. The almost-boiling water did some damage too, and Mark went off to hospital with the skin peeling off his shoulder.

It seemed like total disaster. But after treatment for second degree burns at St Vincent's Hospital, and a further consultation the morning after, the doctors reckon Mark will be back on the water in ten days. And fully recovered for the start of the Games in three weeks. The team have rescheduled their boat-work and sailing plans so that it won't have too much impact on their preparation. Even so, you can imagine how little they need this, after so much hard work to get there.

But Ian had only praise for the support they had already got from the RYA and the British Olympic Association, and commented to www.the-times.co.uk, "Often strength comes from adversity and we are never more dangerous than when our backs are to the wall ... but maybe we should have thought twice before checking in to apartment 13!"

Ian's Olympic diary is coming to MadforSailing.com real soon - so if you want to hear about how they deal with this blow to their - very real - medal chances, MadforSailing's the place to be.

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