Lucas plans Rio preparation

Helena Lucas plans to spend as much time in Rio de Janeiro as possible after becoming the first British athlete to be selected for the 2016 Olympic or Paralympic Games.

The London 2012 gold medal-winning sailor met all the criteria dictated by the Royal Yachting Association to earn her selection 497 days prior to her third Paralympic Games.

The announcement was made at the Cutty Sark in London by the British Paralympic Association to coincide with Lucas' 40th birthday on Wednesday.

Paralympic sailor Helena Lucas has become the first athlete to be selected by Team GB for Rio 2016

Paralympic sailor Helena Lucas has become the first athlete to be selected by Team GB for Rio 2016

"Having the early selection gives me the opportunity to spend a lot more time out there than, hopefully, my competitors, which should give me a good advantage," Lucas told Press Association Sport.

"Rio is a really tricky venue; I went out there in November. If you look at the topography of the area, it's very mountainous, there's lots of high-rise buildings, which play havoc with the wind, the tide is really, really tricky.

"It's a huge advantage if you can spend a lot of time in the venue and learn what the wind and the conditions are doing."

Lucas plans to travel to Rio this September, next January and in May, spending two to three weeks in Brazil each time.

And although she has concerns about the much-publicised poor water quality in Guanabara Bay, she is confident she can combat the threat of illness - with a can of Coke.

"It's not ideal at all, especially not in the boat that I sail, because the water tends to come over your head first," added Lucas, who was born with no thumbs and limited extension in her arms.

"It's hard to try to prevent any water going in your mouth. None of us did get ill, but we did take a lot of precautions to make sure we did everything we could to prevent that.

"As soon as we came in it was a can of Coke straight away and we made sure we were taking lots of vitamins, probiotics, washing hands."

In addition to the sewage spilling into the bay, there have been reports of items including sofas and dead dogs in the water.

Lucas hopes, at the very least, the Games organisers can clear the debris from the water as objects could impede boats' progress in races.

"The sewage is probably a much bigger task and more difficult to do, but if they could at least try to get all the rubbish out, that would be a massive help," she added.

Lucas became the first British sailor to win a Paralympic medal since the sport became a full-time part of the Paralympic programme in 2000 when she won gold in the 2.4mR class at London 2012.

The selection process was announced in November 2013, with the first of four regattas taking place in June 2014 and the last in Palma earlier this year.

"It's been an intense period and the pressure's been on," Lucas added.

"There was only that one slot in sailing; it's not like athletics.

"It's a relief, but also I'm a little bit amazed to be the first athlete announced.

"It's something really quite special. I hope it kick-starts the enthusiasm of the British public. Rio's not that far away."

Lucas plans to celebrate her landmark birthday and selection in Venice this weekend.

She had thoughts for Megan Pascoe, who must now revise her Paralympic dream and chase a place in another class.

Lucas added: "She pushed me hard. It's not over for her yet. By announcing an early selection, it does give her the opportunity.

"I really hope she's successful in another class and gets to go to the Paralympics."

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