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Heat and humidity will be a major factor for Olympic athletes

July 22, 2021

ASU researcher studied Tokyo heat in advance of the Olympic Games

The Tokyo Olympics, starting July 23, will be remembered for three things: a complete lack of spectators, being postponed a year because of a pandemic and searing heat.

Jennifer Vanos, an Arizona State University biometeorologist in the School of Sustainability, has been studying the latter for more than two years, publishing a suite of papers on subjects including planning for spectator thermal comfort, a climatological analysis and the need to integrate heat management among athletes, climatologists, events operators, public health officials and emergency medical technicians.

To get an idea of what athletes and officials could expect, Vanos and her team studied the big picture.

“We focused on looking at what was happening in terms of the large-scale atmospheric, ocean interactions that do impact Tokyo a lot to understand, based on what we know climatologically about Tokyo and based on what's happening on a large scale from a climatology perspective, could it be warmer or cooler on average?” Vanos said. “And we use the El Niño southern oscillation as one of the main drivers of understanding that.”

The other part of that paper honed in on urban differences. Scientific papers will often come out and say, "Here’s Tokyo’s climate based on airport data."

“That's great, but that doesn't give us a sense for where all these venues are and what the temperature at each venue could be at different times of the day,” Vanos said.

Anyone living here in the Valley is familiar with hearing what the temperature is at Sky Harbor, but also knowing that’s going to be far different from Arcadia or Apache Junction.

“Those average temperatures will differ depending on where in the city you are, and the humidity can differ to get them to be higher on the coast than if you're inland a little bit or in the city where there's a little bit less sources of moisture from the ocean,” Vanos said.

The challenge to athletes will be that as humidity rises, the efficiency of sweating drops. When it’s humid and hot, sweat drips instead of evaporating. That rarely happens in a place as arid as Phoenix.

“But in a place like Tokyo, it's pretty tough to escape that humidity, unless you go into a really well air conditioned building,” Vanos said. In 2018 she went to Tokyo and met with researchers. She said walking off the plane was like walking into a wet wall.

“I had never experienced that before,” she said. “And I grew up in a pretty humid place in the summer.”

Vanos and her team also linked exposures to the actual time when athletes will be competing. For example, the women's soccer final has been put in the middle of the day.

“Soccer is one of the sports that requires the most intensity with the least breaks,” she said. “And you're not getting much shading. Those players don't get many breaks. There's already a lot of forethought going into how to prepare for that, how to be acclimatized and how to make sure your athletes can perform in this heat.”

Media coverage of the heat frequently gets it wrong, she said. As the temperature goes up, the relative humidity goes down. The maximum humidity of the day and the maximum temperature of the day will never be at the same time. Maximum yield — the coolest part of both temperature and humidity — will occur at about 3 or 4 a.m. Maximum temperature will occur around 2 to 4 p.m.

“That's one thing that you hear sometimes from the announcers on the sports channels,” Vanos said. “That's one of the biggest things that is incorrectly stated, just because it's hard to understand.”

All marathon and race events have been moved to Sapporo in far northern Japan, 500 miles north of Tokyo. Heat at signature sporting events is becoming more and more of an issue, and more study will be required. In Doha, Qatar, at the World Athletic Championships in 2019, the women’s marathon was held at midnight. Almost half the field failed to finish the course because of the heat.

“And that's just not something you want to see at the Olympics, right?” Vanos said. “We're putting our top athletes in the entire world — the fittest people — into competition. And you don't want the heat to decide who finishes or not.”

Top image: by ooceey from Pixabay

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

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Forks up for Tokyo Olympic Games

July 19, 2021

3 current students among 20 Sun Devil athletes who will be competing for gold in a variety of sports

They may have been delayed a year, but Arizona State University is ready to go for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23.

There are 20 Sun Devil athletes competing in Tokyo, representing 14 countries in six sports. Three Olympians — Jorinde van Klinken, Leon Marchand and Jarod Arroyo — are current students.

In addition to these current and former Sun Devil athletes, volunteer ASU swim coaches Hali Flickinger and Allison Schmitt will be competing on the U.S. swim team in Tokyo. It’s the second Olympics for Flickinger, who finished seventh in the 200-meter butterfly in 2016, and the fourth Games for multi-medalist Schmitt, who won bronze in 2008 (4x200 free relay), three golds (200 free, 4x100 and 4x200 free relays) and silver (400 free) in 2012, and gold (4x200 free relay) and silver (prelims swimmer for 4x100 free relay) in 2016.

ASU head swimming coach Bob Bowman will be on the coaching staff for USA Swimming. He served as the Olympic team’s head coach in 2016 and has been an assistant Olympic coach in 2004, 2008, 2012 and this year. Bowman, named ASU head coach in 2015, coached Michael Phelps to 28 Olympic medals over five Games from 2000–16.

RELATED: More info on the athletes | ASU athletes at the 2016 Rio Games

Here's a look at this year's athletes:

Promise Amukamara

Nigeria, basketball

Amukamara played for ASU women's basketball from 2011 to 2015. She is the first ASU women’s basketball player to play in the Olympics. She played in every one of ASU's 131 games between 2012–15, recording starts in 97 of those contests. Amukamara is sixth place on ASU's all-time steals list and third in career steals in NCAA Tournament games. She was selected by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2015 draft, the year she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jarod Arroyo

Jarod Arroyo

Puerto Rico, swimming, 200- and 400-meter individual medleys

Arroyo is a current ASU redshirt freshman majoring in exercise and wellness. He won gold in the 400-meter medley at the Puerto Rico International Swimming Open in May; his time of 04:16.63 set a Puerto Rican record.

Chris Benard

United States, track and field, triple jump

Benard was a member of ASU track and field from 2010 to 2012. He earned eight All-America honors from 2011–13. He broke ASU’s indoor triple jump mark and won the Pac-12 triple jump. Benard finished 16th at the Rio Games with a jump of 16.55. He graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.

Richard Bohus

Hungary, swimming, 100-meter backstroke

Bohus swam for ASU from 2013 to 2017. He has ASU's second-fastest 100- and 200-meter backstroke times. Bohus graduated summa cum laude in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in digital culture from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. He competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, placing ninth in the 4x100 medley relay and 24th in the 100-meter freestyle in Rio.

Paul Casey

England, golf

Casey played for ASU from 1997 to 2000. He won three straight Pac-12 titles (1998–2000). Casey has three PGA Tour wins and earned his 15th European Tour victory earlier this year.

Carlota Ciganda

Spain, golf

Ciganda was a member of ASU women's golf from 2008 to 11. She helped ASU win the 2009 NCAA title as a freshman and made conference history as the first to win back-to-back Pac-10 championships with titles in 2009 and 2010 and then finished third in 2011. Ciganda was the British Amateur champion in 2007. She finished 39th at the Rio Olympics.

ASU golfers

Four former members of the ASU women's golf team will compete in Tokyo. From left: Anna Nordqvist, Carlota Ciganda, Giulia Molinaro and Azahara Munoz.

Dallas Escobedo

Mexico, softball

Escobedo was a pitcher for ASU softball from 2011 to 2014. She has one national championship and three trips to the Women’s College World Series under her belt. She had a 115-26 record (.815) and a 2.01 career ERA. Escobedo is second in ASU history in wins (115) and strikeouts (1,222). She graduated in 2015 with a double major in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and special education from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and in 2017 with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, also from the Teachers College.

MORE: More than a game for Sun Devil softball Olympians

Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea Gonzales

Mexico, softball

Shortstop Gonzales played for ASU from 2014 to 2017. She led the Sun Devils in 2017 with a .353 batting average and 13 home runs and started all 53 games played. She finished her career sixth on the ASU home run list (44) and seventh on the RBI list (183). Gonzales graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Leon Marchand

France, swimming, 200-meter butterfly, 200- and 400-meter IM

Marchand will be a freshman at ASU this fall, majoring in computer science, and he is the current French record holder in the 400-meter individual medley. His parents both competed for France in the Olympics.

Lena Mihailovic

Australia, water polo

Mihailovic was on ASU's water polo squad from 2015 to 2018. She had 131 goals, finishing her career in the top 10 in program history. She played for Australia in the 2017 FINA World Championship. Mihailovoc graduated cum laude in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Giulia Molinaro

Italy, golf

Molinaro was a Sun Devil golfer from 2008 to 2012, where she was the 2012 Pac-12 Golfer of the Year, only the fourth Sun Devil to earn the honor. She graduated magna cum laude in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in tourism development and management from Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. She tied for 53rd at the Rio Games.

Azahara Munoz

Spain, golf

Munoz golfed at ASU from 2005 to 2009. The 2008 NCAA champion earned the title with a 25-foot putt on the first playoff hole. She led ASU to the NCAA team title in 2009, the year she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Munoz finished 21st at the Rio Games.

Christabel Nettey

Christabel Nettey

Canada, track and field, long jump

Nettey was on the ASU track and field team from 2010 to 2013. The 2011 Pac-10 champion in the long jump finished second at the 2013 NCAA Championships and is a three-time long jump All-American. She holds the second-best long jump in school history with a mark of 21-07.25. Nettey graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies  from the College of Integrative Sciences ans Arts. She finished 11th at the Rio Games.

Anna Nordqvist

Sweden, golf

Nordqvist played for ASU from 2006–08, where she was the Pac-10 co-champion and the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2007. She has eight LPGA Tour wins and three victories on the Ladies European Tour. Norqvist won the 2009 LPGA Championship and finished 11th at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Anna Olasz

Hungary, swimming,10K open water

Olasz swam for ASU from 2013 to 2017 and graduated magna cum laude in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in business communication from the W. P. Carey School of Business. She placed 14th in the 10K open water event at the 2016 Olympics.

Sashel Palacios

Mexico, softball

Palacios played softabll at ASU from 2014–17, hitting .322 in her senior year and starting all 53 games. She earned Pac-12 All-Defensive honors in 2015 and was the Pac-12 Player of the Week on March 28, 2017. Palacios graduated cum laude in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in 2019 with a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Jon Rahm

Spain, golf

Rahm golfed for the Sun Devils from 2012 to 2016. He won 11 collegiate events at ASU in that span and has since won six times on the PGA Tour, including his first major at the 2021 U.S. Open. Rahm graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College. Tokyo is his first Olympics.

Jon Rahm

The 2021 U.S. Open champion, John Rahm played for ASU at the 2016 NCAA Division I men's golf championship.

Fanny Teijonsalo

Finland, swimming, 50-meter freestyle

Teijonsalo was a member of the ASU swim team from 2017 to 2018 after transferring from Florida Gulf Coast University. She has the second-, third- and seventh-best ASU records in the 50-meter freestyle, the third- and seventh-best in the 100-meter freestyle, and four of the top 10 Sun Devil scores in the 100-meter butterfly. She graduated magna cum laude in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jorinde van Klinken

Jorinde van Klinken

Netherlands, track and field, discus

Van Klinken, a current ASU graduate student in global management, took the world lead and broke the Dutch discus record in spring 2021, days before the NCAA West preliminaries. She went on to win NCAA gold in the discus. She was the Pac-12 Women’s Field Athlete of the Year in 2021, after her first season with ASU.

Rowie Webster

Australia, water polo

Webster played for ASU water polo in 2006. Her 63 goals and 82 points that year put her at the top of ASU’s freshman record books. She placed sixth at the 2016 Olympics and earned the bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.

Kelsey White qualified to play water polo for South Africa but announced on July 14 that she would not be playing for COVID-19 reasons.

Top photo: ASU alumnus Chris Benard, shown here competing in the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in London, will be representing the United States in Tokyo in the triple jump. Photo by Omar Mota/ASU