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Heat is predicted to be a major factor at 2020 Olympics

The International Olympic Committee is already implementing "detailed heat countermeasures"

Tokyo Marathon
The streets of Shibuya.

Japan is currently facing one of the worst heat waves in their history. With temperatures averaging 11 degrees higher than normal, the Japanese are struggling to cope with the weather. 

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will start two years from now, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is already implementing “detailed heat countermeasures”. 

The first step has been formatting the schedule so that endurance events happen early in the morning. The men’s and women’s marathon will be wrapped up by 10 a.m., and the triathlons will be finished by noon. 

Even with these measures in place, coaches and athletes are voicing concerns about the conditions they will compete in. Canadian physiologist Trent Stellingwerff tweeted this morning that, “Athletes, coaches, sports – If you don’t think heat is going to be a factor for Tokyo 2020 – think again! Japan is currently in a heatwave natural disaster – with temperatures over 40 degrees celsius and high humidity. Do you have a heat plan?”

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Ross Ristuccia is an experienced Canadian distance running coach, who currently coaches distance runner Sasha Gollish. Ristuccia said on the topic, “Athletes will have to go away and train in hot places. You need to train in hot places because your body needs to go used to the weather. Heat acclimation is conducive to better performance, but the body can only adapt to a certain point.”

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He continued, “A couple of things happen to the body when it’s exposed to high heat: dehydration, decrease in VO2 max, your core body temperature goes up, and your muscle endurance decreases. Essentially, you end up using more of the energy stored in your muscles.”

The 2007 Osaka World Championships were held late August through early September. That world championship showed the slowest men’s marathon, women’s marathon and women’s 10,000m winning times since the world championships began in 1983. The men’s marathon was won in 2:15.59, and only nine men broke 2:20. 

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Ristuccia suggested that, “There will likely be a lot of carnage, and it will be difficult to predict who will do well. It could be Boston 2018 all over again.”