To win an Olympic gold medal, would you:
a) sleep with the Iraqi discus team?
b) Greco-Roman wrestle Tonya Harding?
c) swim in shark-infested waters?
If you're figuring on being a triathlete at the Sydney Olympics
this summer, you'd better pick c, because it looks as if there
are going to be more sharks around Sydney Harbor than at the
Greater Los Angeles Divorce Lawyers convention.
In the last six weeks there were at least nine shark-related
incidents in and near Sydney Harbor, the site of the swimming
segment of the triathlon. Three sharks were caught just outside
the harbor in two days--one bull, one silky and one 17-foot
great hammerhead, which is the kind of shark that flosses
triathletes from between its teeth. Off the harbor beach of
Athol, a 61-year-old guy was taking a dip when a shark nibbled
on his knee and left a wound that needed stitches. At two nearby
ocean beaches swimmers made like hell for land when sharks were
sighted, and at a third beach a shark tossed two boys off a
Boogie Board. An eight-foot shark attacked a boat full of high
school rowers on the Parramatta River, which Sydney Harbor feeds
into. That's freshwater, people! My god, what's to keep them out
of your swimming pool?
Good thing the Olympics aren't being held on the West Coast of
South Australia, where last month an Aussie surfer had to
repeatedly jam his fingers into the eyes of an 11-foot bronze
shark before it would let go of his buddy. How's a triathlete
supposed to practice something like that?
Reporter: So, Lars, how are you preparing for Sydney?
Lars: Well, mostly I'm watching a lot of Three Stooges movies.
Lifeguards on the beaches around Sydney are warning people not
to swim near seals, as sharks enjoy seals for between-meal
snacks. Unfortunately, the swimmers in the Olympic triathlon
will wear wet suits, probably black, which means they'll look
exactly like...seals! Plus, ever since Sydney started cleaning
up the harbor water for the Olympics, more sharks have been
coming around. Let's see: clear view, easy access, seal
disguises. To a shark the Sydney Olympic triathlon will be
ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT SUSHI NIGHT.
True, Sydney officials say the chance of an attack during the
Olympics is "virtually nil" because shark attacks rarely occur
there in September. That's fine, but what about the World Cup
triathlon there on April 16? Well, officials say they're planning
to have lots of motor boats flanking the athletes during their
1,500-meter swim. That's good, because what's safer than swimming
in close proximity to spinning propellers?
Not only that, the Olympic race will start at a small pier near
the Sydney Opera House with the 50 swimmers standing shoulder-to-
shoulder, all diving in at once. "It'll be full contact," says
U.S. hopeful Nick Radkewich. "Anything goes: kicking, punching,
guys pulling you down, guys swimming over you, anything."
Lord, what will the rest of the race be like?
O.K., after the swim you'll bike through the unfed lion cages at
the Sydney zoo, continue up Ayers Rock and finish in the back
room of Crazy Lu's Dyspeptic Tarantula Emporium. That's where
you'll begin your run, though you'll want to be on the lookout
for fans dropping refrigerators from the overpasses.
If there's one American athlete who's Most Likely to Be Eaten by
a Shark, it has to be Karen Smyers, a two-time women's world
champion and the most luckless athlete in the U.S. In the last
three years Smyers has 1) been hit by a semi, suffering six
broken ribs and a bruised lung; 2) broken her collarbone in a
bike accident; 3) had her hamstring sliced by glass from a
shattered storm window; and 4) had surgery to remove a cancerous
thyroid. "No, no, no!" she wails. "My luck has to change! My
husband and I are buying lotto tickets every day just to see
O.K., if it's not Smyers, it'll be Radkewich, who during one race
had one arm paralyzed by a jellyfish sting (and finished), in
another got stung by a wasp on his family jewels (and finished)
and during a third ran over a crane on his bike (the bird was
finished). "Sharks?" he says. "Man, I don't even want to think
Look at it this way, Nick: If you're chased by a killer shark,
think what it'll do for your split time.
It's not too late for Sydney officials to do the right thing on
the sharks. In fact, it's high time for Sydney to take the one
step that will make this first Olympic triathlon the best ever.
Make sure John Tesh is entered.
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
In the last six weeks there were at least nine shark incidents
near the site of the Olympic triathlon.