Swimming: Organisers fear shark attacks

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The Independent Online
Swimming's governing body, Fina, has ordered the use of spotter planes and armed scuba divers to protect competitors in the long-distance ocean events at next year's World Championships after a spate of shark attacks off Western Australia.

Kevin Holtom, the race co-ordinator, said yesterday that local organisers in Perth had been told by worried officials to take every possible precaution against sharks.

"We told them that each competitor will have their own support boat and there will also be back-up crews with life boats and [dinghies] as well as officials' boats and media helicopters," Holtom said.

"We also agreed to get a surveillance plane to fly overhead to look out for any sharks and even use a team of scuba divers armed with spear guns."

Holtom said officials were satisfied with the organisers' existing precautions but became alarmed after seeing reports of three recent attacks. He said the extra precautions were mainly to ease the fears of the competitors themselves.

The most serious incident occurred in August at the same site where the ocean racing events will be held when a 51-year-old man was attacked by a Great White shark.

The World Championships are scheduled to take place from 8 to 18 January.