Tokyo Olympics: Kiwi sailors taking COVID-19, heat challenges in stride, as Games loom

After a year of setbacks and uncertainty, New Zealand’s Olympic athletes are finally touching down in Tokyo, but it wasn’t quite the welcome our sailing team might have hoped for.

With hour-long waits to process COVID-19 requirements, these Games may look very different, but our athletes are taking it in their strides. 

"The last week, it's started to feel really real," says 470 sailor Paul Snow-Hansen. "It's been such a long build-up that to have this day finally come, we've been able to celebrate with friends and family.

Those celebrations will be the last before they compete in Tokyo and with fans not permitted at these Olympics, athletes will have to get used to flying solo. 

"The biggest difference is off the water more than previous Olympics," says Daniel Wilcox. "Just having to spend a lot of time in hotel rooms and stuff like that.

But vitally, on the water, they'll notice little change.

"For sailing, when we launch out onto the water, we're pretty much in our zone anyway," says 49er FX sailor Molly Meech. "It's disappointing we won't have friends and family, but I think we'll be OK."

Unaffected by the lack of fans, they're also at an advantage when it comes to dealing with Tokyo's soaring temperatures, expected to reach as high as 40 degrees, with humidity nearing 90 percent.

"Out on the water, it's actually not too bad, the temperature," says Wilcox. "Obviously, we have some days when there's not too much wind and those days can get hot, but when there's breeze around out on the water, it's nice and cool."

That's one less thing to worry about, as COVID-19 continues to grip the Tokyo Olympics, just three days out from the start of competition.