Rio 2016: Late events mean some Canadian athletes will be night owls

Canadian swimmer Ryan Cochrane says the Olympic swimming schedule in Rio is odd, but not as weird as it was eight years ago in Beijing.

The traditional timetable at major swim competition is morning heats and early evening finals.

Cochrane swims his 400-metre freestyle heat Saturday at 1 p.m. local time at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. If he makes the evening final, the start gun won’t go off until around 10:30 p.m.


Evening swim sessions in Rio will start at 10 p.m. and wrap up just before or after midnight.

“One and 10 is a change, but everyone is going through that same thing,” said Cochrane, a medal threat in both the 400 and 1,500 freestyle.

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“My races are at 10:30, the finals both times. It’s not (as late as) it could be. It’s not ideal. It’s also hard when you don’t really see sunlight because you’re going to the pool at weird times.”

The 27-year-old from Victoria won bronze in the 1,500 in 2008 swimming a morning final. Heats were held in the evening.

But it will be the wee hours of the morning in Rio by the time a swimmer competes in a final, does a post-race cool down, conducts media interviews, goes through doping protocols and makes it back to the village perhaps in search of refuelling food.

READ MORE: How dangerous is Rio de Janeiro? What anyone travelling to Rio 2016 should know

Sleeping in might be difficult when athletes in other sports are up and rustling about in preparation for their events.

“It’s another thing to deal with, but at the same time, you’re going to be so amped up on race day it could be three in the morning, it doesn’t matter what time, you’d still get the performances.”

Swimmers won’t be the only night owls in Rio. The tip-off for one men’s and one women’s basketball quarter-final is 10:15 p.m. Beach volleyball matches will go past midnight.

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Beach player Chaim Schalk of Red Deer, Alta., says he’s accustomed to adjusting his body clock as he and Calgary teammate Ben Saxton fly around the world to tournaments.

What was on his mind for Rio is how court lights will be positioned at the Copacabana beach volleyball venue for night matches.

“Once in a while we play under lights,” Schalk said. “Sometimes the bright lights are in bad spots which makes it tough, but I’m sure the stadium will be well lit up.”

The competition schedule in Rio is tailored to a North American prime-time television audience and accommodates the Asian TV market.

The world governing body of swimming, FINA, was not happy with the swim times, according to an Associated Press story published last year.

But the International Olympic Committee is the ultimate authority on Games scheduling.

“We will prepare for it, but it’s a pretty irresponsible decision that has been made,” Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren told The AP at the 2015 world championship in Kazan, Russia.

Swimming Canada high-performance director John Atkinson acknowledged “there’s never been an international championship held at these times.”

“Those that can adapt and get onto good sleep cycles when they get to Rio, will have the best chance of doing well,” he said.

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– With files from Associated Press

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