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Hockey teams primed to beat the heat

August 11, 2004 18:39 IST

Never mind the opposition, many hockey teams limbering up for the Olympics are ready to wage war against the heat.

Organisers have scheduled games for the morning and evening to avoid the burning heat of the Athenian summer but with one of the Olympics' most punishing schedules, hockey teams will be tested as much for their endurance as their skill.

The world's top squads have been preparing by working out in heat tents, acclimatising in southern Europe, keeping a keen eye on hydration levels and using all the technology they can get.

"Everyone knows it's going to be hot and we've prepared for that. If it really gets baking, the quality of your preparation will really show through," said British captain Simon Mason, who plays under the extra heat of a 13 kg goalkeeper's outfit.

The Australian and Japanese women got a taste of how hot the competition will be when they played a full 70-minute friendly on Wednesday morning, three days before the tournament starts.

By 1100, the temperature was 30 degrees Celsius and rising, with little respite offered by the sea breeze that sweeps the beach-side complex.

"The evening matches should be nice and cool but if you start at 1030 (a.m.), it's going to be tough," said David Bell, the Australian women's coach.

"Then again, getting up in time for the 0830 start could be more of a challenge," he joked.

Having trained in warm climes and an acclimatisation chamber, the "Hockeyroos" now wrap up in ice-jackets on their way to the stadium and during half-time to cool their core body temperature, allowing them to work harder for longer.

The heat is also challenging pitch supervisors who have to water the artificial surface for as much as an hour before each match to make sure it is soaked enough to keep the ball running smoothly throughout a 35-minute half.

The pitch also needs to stay wet to prevent players from injuring themselves as they fall or fail to skid when the surface is drier and stickier.

But for others, heat worries seem like a joke.

The Pakistani men's team has been training in about 44 degrees Celsius in Karachi and is rather enjoying the low humidity and light winds that brush through Athens in August.

"Hot? This isn't hot! There's even a nice breeze cooling the pitch a bit," smiled Pakistan's coach Roelant Oltmans.

Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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