The final days of preparation on the venue before the start of a World Rowing Championships is usually a time of relaxed practice and training - a mix of fun and anxious anticipation. The athletes and officials have all worked hard to get to this moment, and they are happy to have earned the chance to compete.
Yesterday was slightly different in the boatyard, and on the course in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria, where the World Championships are being readied to begin Sunday.
There was still the same mix of anxiousness and fun, but the accidental drowning death of 33-year-old Belarus para single sculler Dzmitry Ryshkevich, Tuesday afternoon, was on most everyone's mind Wednesday morning.
And a single, long black bunting, hung on one of three flagpoles on the end of the medals dock in front of the grandstands, stood as a stark reminder of the tragedy that unfolded Tuesday afternoon just after 1 PM during the afternoon training session.
According to Upper Austrian police spokesman Michael Babl, the exact details of the accident are still in the process of being investigated, and have not yet been finalized, but what is known and was made public Wednesday was that a possible failure of the para single's pontoon system may have caused Ryshkevich to go into the water.
Just after a press briefing yesterday morning, Babl said that Ryshkevich was pulled from the water on the course by rescue and recovery divers hours after he flipped in view of safety personnel on the scene during practice Tuesday afternoon.
Wednesday morning press briefing
"We know that yesterday, around 1:30 PM, a Belarussian para rower capsized while in training. This was seen by the firefighters, the dive team of the firefighters, who were also on the water," Babl said.
"They immediately went to the man and tried to help him, but they couldn't reach him, and so they were too late. After that, it took a few hours to find him by divers."
Ryshkevich's body was pulled from the water shortly after 4 PM, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was taken to a local hospital and an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death was not completed yesterday morning, Babl said.
Babl said the on-scene rescue crew saw Ryshkevich flip into the water, and were able to reach his shell while he was still within sight and clinging to the boat. Ryshkevich was reportedly able to undo the safety belt that restricted his upper body movement while he rowed, and to free his feet from the shoes that attached to the boat.
But before rescuers could get him out of the water, Ryshkevich slipped out of sight under the surface of the water.
A current focus of the investigation is centering on the pontoons used on either side of a para rowing single.
FISA executive director Matt Smith said Wednesday that FISA will wait until the police investigation is complete before making comments about what might have happened. Smith said he was still traveling to the venue Tuesday when he received the news of Ryshkevich's accident.
Dzmitry Ryshkevich during practice in 2015
"We are all saddened, and very concerned and need to know more about exactly what happened," Smith said. Smith said the police have asked FISA to finish their report before commenting on the facts of the accident beyond what is now known.
"I've respected their wish to let them carry out their investigation so they can do all of their interviews with the rescue people and safety people and then give us their report. We only have second, or third, hand information about what happened, so we are waiting for the official report," he said.
"As soon as we have that report, we will carry out our own investigation to see if there are any issues related to elements that we could control, such as equipment safety, personal flotation devices, or something like that.
Smith said that he has been told by the Belarus coaches that in addition to competing in international para rowing since 2013, Ryshkevich was also a para swimmer.
"His coaches say he was a strong swimmer, so we don't exclude anything, such as possible medical issues. We are waiting for the completion of the investigation," Smith said.
Official closed the race course and canceled practice Tuesday while the rescue efforts were still going on. Practice resumed Wednesday morning and the only outward sign that the tragedy had occurred was the black bunting hanging on the flag pole, along with a few national team flags posted to half-mast in the boatyard.
Most rowers declined to talk about the accident, but it was definitely on the minds of the athletes and coaches.
"We're all sad for what happened," said Alice Henderson, who coaches the US PR2 mixed double. I think everyone is in a decent mood, but I think it also gives everyone a perspective about reality." she said. "We're trying to achieve our goals, and we're lucky to be here to work against our goals. We forget that this is a sport where things can happen."
Flag of Germany hangs at half-mast in the boatyard Wednesday