Originally created 12/31/98

Olympic debut proposed for mermaid mimics



ATHENS, Greece -- Get ready for mermaids at the Olympics.

Well, not quite mermaids, but swimmers with fins that make them look like mermaids.

The obscure sport of fin swimming is being proposed to become part of the 2004 Athens Olympics, organizers said Wednesday. The final decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee.

Fin swimmers stick both feet in a single rubber-and-fiberglass "mono fin" up to 32 inches wide. They clasp their hands together in front and propel through the water with undulating thrusts of the fin.

World-class fin swimmers can move about 30 percent faster than their conventional counterparts. Some fin swimmers use a snorkel, but it was not clear if it would be used in possible Olympic competition.

The sport is growing in nations such as Russia, China and Australia, organizers said.

Athens already has proposed water skiing for 2004. A spokeswoman for the organizing committee, Julie Velisaratou, said billiards and karate may also be suggested.

Other sports waiting for the Olympic inclusion include surfing, ballroom dancing, acrobatics, roller skating and basque pelota, a fast squash-like game in which contestants hurl the ball with large curled scoops.

At the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, taekwondo and the grueling swim-bike-run triathlon will be elevated to Olympic status for the first time, and swimming's governing body may propose synchronized diving. In Atlanta in 1996, softball and beach volleyball made their debut.