The world's best triathletes, competing at an Olympics for the first time, will have a view of Sydney's two favorite structures as they swim: the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. But the week after next, at the test event, no one will be thinking about the view. A spate of shark attacks and sightings around Sydney Harbour, including two attacks in two days on schoolboy rowers, has triggered panic among some competitors. "The Europeans are pretty worried about it," says 1997 world champion Chris McCormack. "They're used to swimming in freshwater lakes, where the most you'll find is an eel."
Australia is home to 166 of the 370 species of shark in the world, but only four types are carnivorous. The last time a shark killed a swimmer in the harbor was 1963, and local marine scientists say the water will be too cold for sharks during the Games. This month's tests, however, while the weather is still warm, are another story. Organizers aren't taking any chances. Noises tend to scare off sharks, so inflatable boats with outboard motors may cruise the course during the race. McCormack says sharks tend to attack swimmers who are not sticking with the pack. Perhaps this is why Australia dominates both men's and women's events in this sport.
--By Leora Moldofsky/Sydney