The Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha, reigning Olympic champion in open water swimming, called in an interview with AFP for the organizers of the 2024 Olympics to develop a “plan B” in case the events could not take place in the Seine, due to poor water quality.

“It’s a concern. There was no test event last year because of that, but (the organizers) insist on wanting the tests to take place there (…). We need a plan B in case it is not possible to swim” in the Seine, declared the 31-year-old swimmer on the sidelines of a competition on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro.

“It is not a question of erasing the history of the Seine, we know what the Alexandre-III bridge, the Eiffel Tower represents, but I think that the health of the athletes must come first,” argues the champion, according to which “the organizers must accept that, perhaps, it is unfortunately impossible to carry out the events where they want them”.

Less than five months before the opening ceremony of the Paris Games (July 26 – August 11), the quality of the water in the Seine, the emblematic river which crosses the French capital, continues to give the organizers a cold sweat.

The Seine must also host the triathlon events, and its swimmability, as well as that of its tributary the Marne, is supposed to be one of the great legacies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The analyzes carried out from 2015 to 2023, transmitted to AFP by the Paris town hall, show strong variations last summer, with several peaks in the concentration of two bacteria indicative of fecal contamination.

None of the 14 Parisian water sampling points has reached a sufficient level of quality with regard to European directives in 2023, generally from June to September.

Asked about her state of mind at the idea of ​​having to compete with doubts about the quality of the water, Ana Marcela Cunha evokes “a before and an after”.

“On the day of the competition, there is not much to do (…). But, afterwards, once you get out of the water, you can get sick two weeks later. At the time of the competition, we don’t think about it, we worry afterwards,” says the Brazilian champion, urging environmental awareness more broadly.

“Everything is linked to the way we treat nature” and “everyone must play their role”, says the young thirty-year-old, citing the plastic pollution of the seas, even if, to return to the Paris Games, it is also “linked to an infrastructure problem: the Seine is not made for swimming”, according to her.

Despite this uncertainty, Ana Marcela Cunha says she remains focused on her goal: retaining her title, for her fourth participation in the Olympics.

A hell of a challenge for the seven-time world champion, who should have tough opponents like the German Leonie Beck or the Dutch Sharon van Rouwendaal, gold medalist at the Rio 2016 Games.

Winning, “I know that’s what everyone expects. I know how to manage pressure and expectations,” retorts the Brazilian swimmer. “I had to go through many challenges, I had to have surgery (on my shoulder, in November 2022), and my opponents respect me. I’m going to be the person to beat, but I’m staying calm about it,” she continues.

Will this be, whatever happens, his last Olympics?

“As long as I’m happy and I continue to progress, I don’t want to set a date, to avoid having to countdown,” assures the swimmer.

SEE ALSO – Europa League: Marcelino returns to Olympique de Marseille this Thursday evening (9 p.m.)