Martin Kirketerp has lived the highest of highs as an Olympic gold medalist, but he also lived through two nightmares earlier this year.
The Danish sailor said in a recent interview that he had been struck by lightning in January and then surrounded by orcas just six months later.
Kirketerp, who won gold in 2008 in Beijing, was competing in the SailGP event in Singapore as a grinder for ROCKWOOL Denmark. After the race, she was trying to help the New Zealand boat return to port for the award ceremony after their victory. But lightning struck the ship, and electricity passed through it.
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«I’m just functioning as a human lightning rod right there,» he told Olympics.com.
«It was a very, very unpleasant experience, because it goes from zero to 100 in a fraction of a second. You just hope it’s over soon and you don’t accelerate anymore. You start to wonder where you’ll be in a few seconds.» I was scared while it was on, I’d like to admit it.»
Kirketerp said he has been surprised many times, as he «worked quite a bit as a handyman at home.» But «this is different.»
«You can feel it all over your body. It’s a big shock. It’s not because it’s very painful. You can really feel it, but it’s not like a pain. It’s more what’s going on in your head,» he added. . «You can feel like it’s tearing through your whole body and you’re a little worried about what’s happening.
«The positive is that it only lasts a few seconds. When it’s over, you can quickly feel the ticker still working. It was still there. It’s over in an instant, but while it’s on, it’s intense. I couldn’t feel my arm afterward. I didn’t have any contact with my arm, but at the time it didn’t matter.
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One life-changing experience is good enough for, well, a lifetime. But Kirketerp had the «pleasure» of having two in such a short time. In June for another race came his visit from the orcas.
«We could see some big fins approaching on the horizon. A family of orcas came to our boat, two adults and their baby, and they wanted to play with us for a bit. We were upset because now the race stopped. We took the sails down and tried to We stood still, and we could see our competitors sailing past us and around the orcas.
«They came over to lie next to the rudder and gave him a good beating now and then. They didn’t come in full force and squash him, because then he would slow down immediately. But he’s still a very big and heavy animal, so when they hit the rudder with their head, the whole ship shakes, I was very afraid that the rudder would break, but I was not afraid of sinking.
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«I’ve seen a lot of marine life out there, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. It was a fantastic experience to see these big, majestic and impressive animals up close. But it would have been so much better if you just walked up and waved, followed the boat out for a while and then kept swimming.
Water is scary, and Kirketerp knows everything, but not enough to keep him away.
«I keep doing the things I do. We can all agree that the things we do at sea and in extreme sports carry some risk,» he said. «But the two episodes I’ve experienced here are outliers. None of this is standard. It’s not something that happens in every race.»