French legend Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli is in Beijing to contest her seventh Olympic Games, and after a few days of acclimatisation finds the heat and humidity to be not much worse than her previous experiences. Having been to Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens, she has seen it all, but found Beijing to be a lot like her home away from home.
"I spend a lot of time in the Reunion Island which has a similar climate, very damp and hot, but with a little bit more sun," she said, recalling her training ground on the French départment in the Indian Ocean. "Mind you, I saw the sun briefly today at the top of the wall," Longo told Reuters.
Longo, who spent her time pre-Olympics training at altitude in Colorado, had become used to the heat during her preparation, and was not affected by the pollution and humidity in China, and said she had experienced worse conditions in Mexico City. "We had 43-44 degrees in Denver, but it was a dry heat altitude," she said to AFP. "What I fear most is the air conditioning ...."
When the women head out from Beijing to fight for the medals on Sunday, Longo expects her best chance to come if the race is made hard before the climbs on the finishing circuit. "I think I have a chance on this course if the race toughens early in the big stretch leading to the final circuit," she said to Reuters. "The climb is hard and goes up step-by-step, but the descent is too easy and will make it difficult to break away."
Longo, at 49, has won 55 national titles in her time, and already has four Olympic medals, including a gold from Atlanta in 1996. But even though she's already tallied up an enormous number of victories, she's not counting herself out for the future. She's said before that she would retire, but kept returning not only to form, but to her place as fastest French woman. "I'm not a liar, but every time, the urge comes back and I resume training and I feel fine," said Longo. "This season I told myself 'why not give it another try?' and the training went well."
Will she return for Olympic Games number nine? "London could be fun, and it's not far from home," said Longo.