Focusing Beyond Rio’s Polluted Waters, Two Americans Brace for First Olympics


The American sailors Helena Scutt, 23, left, and Paris Henken, 20, are trying not to be distracted by the health issues surrounding the Rio Games.

Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times

If a broken spine, two fractured ribs and a lacerated kidney did not put an end to Helena Scutt’s Olympic dreaming, it should come as no surprise that she and her crewmate, Paris Henken, are not prepared to let the health risks in Rio de Janeiro dissuade them from taking part in their first Games.

Last month, Scutt and Henken became the first American sailors to qualify for the Rio Games. They will sail in a new Olympic class, the 49erFX, a high-performance skiff that looks more like a high-wire act and is open only to women. In light of the speed and the ocean spray and the fact that competitors are suspended off the boat on trapeze wires, the 49erFX is also one of the events that will put athletes in closest contact with the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay.

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