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Pearson targets B final at first Olympics

Shelley Pearson will raise the curtain for Bermuda's athletes at the Rio Olympics when she takes to the waters of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freita in the single scull rowing heats tomorrow morning.

Pearson will likely be among only a handful of rowers attending tonight's opening ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium, with the majority of her rivals expected to remain at the athletes village and prepare for their competition.

The 25-year-old, however, said the thought of missing the athletes parade had not entered her mind and cannot wait for the “surreal moment” when she marches with her team-mates in front of an estimated crowd of 80,000 spectators.

“I don't think all of this will hit me until the opening ceremony,” Pearson said. “I race in the morning and most rowers won't go the opening ceremony and I'll be leaving as soon as I can.”

Pearson, who qualified for Rio after winning the Latin Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta in Curauma, Chile, in March, has set her sights on reaching the B final in her event.

She believes it is an achievable goal and was buoyed by her third-place B-final finish at the World Rowing Cup III in Poznan, Poland, in June, where she faced many of her Olympic competitors for the first time.

“Poland was an amazing experience before Rio,” she said.

“The biggest thing is the confidence it has given me that I can compete on the biggest stage.

“We had some pretty horrific conditions and I handled it pretty well, and it was quite exciting to see what I could do against the top dogs.

“Making the B final would be the dream. It's definitely reachable but it will not be easy. The biggest race for me will be quarter-finals [on Tuesday].”

The English-based athlete has prepared for her Olympic debut at Dorney Lake in Windsor, where the 2012 London Olympics rowing events were held.

She believes the windy conditions she often encounters at the purpose-built rowing lake will stand her in good stead in Rio, where she arrived a week ago to acclimatise and familiarise herself with the venue.

“The course can have a pretty stiff crosswind, but I'm pretty comfortable with wind as Dorney is notoriously windy,” Pearson said.

“The heat is another thing and I'm not super acclimated for that having been in England.”

The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freita has had its fair share of negative publicity because of environmental issues and Pearson admits she does harbour some concerns.

Such is the extent of water pollution, the United States rowers have been given a new, high-tech training suit with antimicrobial features designed to protect them.

“We have a plan in place to handle all of the various external factors associated with that course,” Pearson said. “The water quality means I can't bring a water bottle on the boat with me and I'm going to have to pull in to get water.

“We have been given protocol and should hand sanitise our oar handles and hands between every session, and before we touch any food.

“There's a very long list of what you're supposed to do in order to stay safe.”

First up: Pearson will make her Olympic bow in rowing at the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freita (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 05, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 05, 2016 at 8:10 am)

Pearson targets B final at first Olympics

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