After the Flood

The tsunami in Asia touched the sports world, which did its part to aid victims
January 10, 2005

On monday the Australian Football League's Melbourne Demons returned to practice after their Christmas break, minus one of their stars. On Dec. 26, eight days after their wedding, defender Troy Broadbridge, 24, and his wife, Trisha, were walking along a beach on Thailand's Ko Phi Phi island when the massive tsunami that wreaked havoc across Southern Asia crashed ashore(LIFE OF REILLY, page 76). Trisha was struck by an uprooted bungalow but made her way to safety. Troy disappeared; he was still missing on Monday and was presumed dead.

The tsunami left at least 140,000 dead and countless stories like the Broadbridges' in its wake, some involving international sports figures. Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova, 25, who graced the cover of SI's Swimsuit Issue in 2003, was swept away near Phuket, Thailand. She clung to a tree for eight hours in the swirling water and suffered a broken pelvis. (Her boyfriend, photographer Simon Atlee, is presumed dead.) Not far away, Gaute Larsen, a coach for Norwegian soccer team Odd Grenland, was boarding a boat with his family when the wave swept them a half mile into town. "It was a near-death experience," he said.

Several vacationing Italian soccer stars were stranded in the Maldives for days, and Swedish skiing great Ingemar Stenmark, was nearly caught by the wave while sunbathing in Thailand. Southern Asia is a popular vacation area for Swedes, at least 825 of whom perished in the disaster. Jonas Bjorkman, Sweden's top men's doubles tennis player, said he would give his earnings from this week's ATP Chennai Open--which will be held as scheduled in Chennai, India--to disaster victims.

Sports organizations around the globe joined Bjorkman. The International Cricket Council will hold a benefit all-star series next week in Melbourne. The Red Cross collected contributions from fans at the Rose and Cotton Bowls and at NFL and NBA games. Maria Sharapova, in Thailand for an exhibition with Venus Williams last week, donated $10,000; along with other tennis stars, the two players were also planning an auction to raise funds.

Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the late Pittsburgh Pirates star, had spent much of 2004 planning a New Year's Eve delivery of food and medical supplies to Nicaragua, a symbolic completion of Roberto Sr.'s mission on Dec. 31, 1972, when he was killed in a plane crash while ferrying aid to earthquake victims there. Clemente Jr. postponed the Nicaragua trip and flew 16,000 pounds of supplies from Puerto Rico to Asia. Said Clemente, "I decided ... to help the people who desperately need it right now."

COLOR PHOTOGETTY IMAGES (BROADBRIDGE) SWEPT AWAY Broadbridge (inset, with wife) disappeared; Nemcova (top) barely survived. COLOR PHOTOCOURTESY OF TRISHA BROADBRIDGE VIA MELBOURNE FOOTBALL CLUB (WEDDING)   [See caption above] COLOR PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR. (SI COVER)   [See caption above]