Rio Olympic Games: Virus floors Australian kayak star Murray Stewart’s gold medal defence
MICHAEL CARAYANNIS, The Sunday Telegraph, June 25, 2016 7:26pm
Stewart will still get a chance to contest the single kayak race in Rio but was so floored by the disease he missed three weeks on the water, during which he was overlooked for the K2 and K4 races.
Fears regarding the zika virus will also mean Stewart’s newly pregnant wife Rebecca will not travel to Rio.
“It’s a scary thing really,” Stewart said of the zika virus. “My wife won’t travel. We don’t want to take the risk.”
Stewart, who leaves for Italy to ramp up his preparations today and won’t return to Australia until after the Olympics, said it was a “big disappointment” to miss out on an opportunity to defend the gold medal he won in London.
“I won both the K2 and K4 in national’s so it was a kick in the teeth,” Stewart said. “I’m quite disappointed about it. While I was away, I missed the world cup regattas in Europe, literally when I was at my sickest, and the Australian’s did really well.
“They obviously decided to stick with combinations which is understandable but very disappointing from my point of view given that I’d been an integral part of those boats for a long time.”
Stewart first contracted the disease 10 years ago. The second bout occurred towards the end of April, shortly after the Australian trials where he recorded two personal best times in the individual event.
“It really knocked me around for a while and it was a bit of a struggle,” Stewart said. “I was confident going into the national’s and I raced really well. I’m confident I can get back to that level.”
Stewart is slowly getting back to full health.
“I’m getting close to full fitness,” Stewart said. “This week I’m feeling a lot better. If the Olympics were next week I would line up and give it a red hot crack. With another seven weeks training, I’ll be even faster than I was even this year and that’s when I was at my fastest.
“I’ve had two top six finishes at the world championships and now I have a really single-minded focus. It’s going to be an opportunity to hone in on that.
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