Skiing great Ingemar Stenmark was sunbathing on a beach in
Thailand when he saw an immense wave roaring to shore. He began
running for his life.
"The water from the first wave disappeared, but then it came
back with terrifying speed," Stenmark told Swedish media.
Stenmark, a Swede who won two gold medals at the 1980 Olympics
and 86 World Cup races, was with friends in Khok Kloi, about 30
miles from Phuket, the popular tourist spot. He and girlfriend
Christina Sylvan were not injured. Sylvan's father, Bo, was hurt
but not seriously.
Stenmark was among a number of athletes and sports figures on
vacation in Southern Asia when earthquake-driven tsunamis swept
the region. The most powerful quake in the world in four decades
has killed more than 22,000 people in 10 countries. Thousands are
missing, and the death toll is expected to climb far higher.
Soccer's governing body said Monday that all flags at its
headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, were being flown at half
staff. FIFA president Sepp Blatter, acknowledging "untold grief
and bereavement," sent letters to the presidents of the soccer
federations of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Maldives,
Malaysia and Myanmar.
The bungalow of former Austrian tennis star Thomas Muster was hit in the Maldives, but he was unhurt. Zinedine Zidane, the French
soccer star for Real Madrid, was vacationing on Reunion Island off
Madagascar, one of the lesser-hit islands, the Italian newspaper
Gazzetta dello Sport said.
Gaute Larsen, assistant coach of the Norwegian elite division
soccer team Odd Grenland, was caught by a wave in Phuket.
"That was a near-death experience and very dramatic," he told
Norway's largest newspaper, Verdens Gang, "We were lucky."
Larsen, his family and another Norwegian couple were about to
leave on a boat trip when the water suddenly began to rise.
"We were washed away for 300, 400 meters until we ended up in the town center and swam in to a ledge," he said. "We saw cars
being slammed into walls and people being carried away by the
currents. I don't know how many of those we saw survived."
With European soccer in its winter break, many players had
headed to resorts in warmer climates. No soccer players were
Several Italian soccer players in the Maldives were trying to
make their way home Monday. AC Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi sent a
text message from his cell phone to Gazzetta dello Sport saying he
was "isolated but OK for now," adding he was without lights and
Milan captain Paolo Maldini and Juventus defender Gianluca
Zambrotta managed to fly back to Italy together, arriving early
Monday. Two other Milan players, Alessandro Nesta and Cristian
Brocchi, also were in the Maldives, the club's Web site reported.
Emre Asik, a defender with the Turkish team Besiktas, was
vacationing in the Maldives with his girlfriend. Asik's girlfriend,
Aysun Kayaci, a model, said she and the Turkish soccer star were in
their bungalow built on stilts when they heard a powerful noise and
saw water surging into the room.
"In no time, the water rose, it destroyed our veranda and
balcony, and nearly reached our necks," she told CNN-Turk
television by telephone.
Asik said that they had been evacuated to another island -- three
hours away -- by ferry and that Besiktas was sending a private plane to
fly them back to Turkey.
Bayern Munich's Hasan Salihamidzic also was in the Maldives and escaped unharmed. The club's Web site said he was expected to fly
out with his family Monday.
A one-day cricket match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand
scheduled for Wednesday in Napier, New Zealand, was postponed until
Jan. 11. New Zealand cricket authorities want to allow Sri Lanka a
five-day period of national mourning.
The Chennai Open, a tennis tournament in Chennai, India, along
the country's southeast coast, will be held as scheduled starting
Jan. 3, ATP spokeswoman Erika Kegler said.
The first leg of the Indonesia-Malaysia semifinal in soccer's
Tiger Cup, Southeast Asia's nations championship, remains set for
Tuesday night in Jakarta.