German medal hope Buhl warns of tricky waters
By Karolos Grohmann
EVIAN, France (Reuters) - German sailor Philipp Buhl is chasing an Olympic medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in less than two months to complete his collection but warns the water of Guanabara bay could prove to be a tricky adversary.
The 26-year-old, who won silver at last year's world and European Championships in the laser class, has been working on his first Olympic participation for the best part of five years.
"I lost out on London (2012) qualification and that is when I set my sights on Rio," he told Reuters in a phone interview on Thursday.
"It was clear midway through the 2015 season that I had secured my Rio spot. Since then I have almost only had this one aim -- to win a medal in Rio."
Buhl is no stranger to Guanabara bay, having raced there five times, but Olympic sailors will face bacterial pollution, floating solid objects, strong currents and shifting winds.
Pollution, which has caused some athletes to fall sick including German sailor Erik Heil in 2015, is among the biggest concerns.
"My opinion is that water quality is not good or it is very bad," Buhl said.
"There were illnesses like with Erik Heil and to cut short a sailor's competition at the Olympics is the absolute worst that can happen because of such a long preparation which has essentially marked your entire life.
"That would be a catastrophe but I have been there five times and I came back healthy every time. I hope I can do it another two times with the preparation there and the Games."
Buhl will have the help of some high-tech analytical tools to help him navigate the tricky course.
"The Olympic sailing venue in Rio is the most demanding I have ever sailed in," he said. "You have anything from light breezes to strong winds, from waves that are 50 metres long and four metres high to completely flat waters.
"The versatility of the conditions could not be greater and then you add the strong currents which are very difficult to calculate."
Software company SAP, working with the German sailing team, developed SAP Tide App to map the currents and help chart a quick course.
"(With it) we can digitally view the currents, based on thousands of measurements we did over the last three years with Sailing Team Germany and it gives you the basic patterns of the current combined with wind direction and wind speed," said Buhl.
"That is a key part in our decision which side we will chose to sail in."
As for pressure, Buhl is happy to use it to his advantage.
"Mentally it is very demanding," he said. "I am one of the medal hopes among sailors and what I have been telling myself is ... it will only happen with pressure. But expectation and pressure are part of the territory."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)