To win an Olympic gold medal, would you:
a) sleep with the Iraqi discus team?
b) Greco-Roman wrestle with Tonya Harding?
c) Swim in shark-infested waters?
May 31, 2000
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 Harbour 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 Harbour, the site of the swimming
segment of the triathlon. Three sharks were caught just outside
the harbour in two days--one bull, one silky and one 5m great
hammerhead, which is the kind of shark that flosses triathletes
from between its teeth. Off the harbour 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. A 2.4m shark attacked a boat full of high school
rowers on the Parramatta River, which feeds into Sydney Harbour.
That's fresh water, 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 3.4m bronze shark
before it would let go of his buddy. How's a triathlete supposed
to practise 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 harbour 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.
Sydney officials say the chances 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 in April? Well, officials are planning to have lots of
motor boats flanking the athletes during their 1500m 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 will be full
contact," says US hopeful Nick Radkewich. "Anything goes:
kicking, punching, guys pulling you down, guys swimming over
Lord, what will the rest of the race be like?
OK, 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 US. In the last
three years Smyers has 1) been hit by a semitrailer, 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
OK, if it's not Smyers, it'll be Radkewich, who during one race
had one arm paralysed 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 ex-Entertainment Tonight's John Tesh is entered.
In the last six weeks, there were at least nine shark incidents
near the site of the Olympic triathlon.