Long before Paul Hogan had thrown his first shrimp on the barbie on national television, Mark Kerry was one of Australia's premier ambassadors of good will. He has been charming folks with a "G-day, mate" and an infectious grin since he was a 17-year-old backstroker on Australia's 1976 Olympic team in Montreal.
Kerry is 29 and settled into a well-established career as a model and actor in the United States, but he's back in the pool these days at UC Irvine, training for a shot at his fourth consecutive berth on the Australian Olympic team.
In a sport in which Olympic champions usually train twice a day, 6 days a week, 11 months a year, sloshing through mile after mile, Kerry is an enigma. Before each of the last three Olympics, he has devoted a whole two or three months to training.
Swimmers call the mileage they put in "background." And if you don't have a lot of it, that's usually where you end up at the medal ceremony.
Kerry, however (and don't let any young swimmers get wind of this), has three Olympic medals to show for his lack of dedication. He won a bronze medal in the 200-meter backstroke in the 1980 Olympics and was a member of Australia's gold-medal winning medley relay team in 1980 and bronze-medal medley relay team in '84.
"I'm afraid I'd have burned out long ago if I swam more often," said Kerry, who was getting in a quick workout at Irvine last week before filming a soft-drink commercial. "Charlie (Schober, the Irvine swimming coach) got me ready for the 1980 Games when he was an assistant at USC, so I came back to him this year.
"They're only taking two guys in each event (on the Australian Olympic team) and I've got two 6-5 teen-agers without an ounce of fat on their bodies to beat out."
Kerry has battled shoulder problems throughout much of his career but says he feels great these days. Even confident.
"I know I can go fast again," he said.
Schober's a believer, too. He has started a new club team, sponsored by Equitable of Iowa, so Kerry and a few Anteater swimmers can compete at national meets this summer.
"You can say Mark's not dedicated, but I say anytime you have medaled in the Olympics, you're doing a pretty damn good job. He keeps his body in shape, for his job as much as for swimming, so when he comes back to it, he's ready to train.
"He's been there, through that ultimate pressure, so he's a very positive example for our team. Plus, he's such a hard worker. He goes twice a day just as hard as any athlete on our team."
But Kerry, of course, is not really just like any other athlete on the team. This week, for instance, he has had to take a few days off. He's back in Sydney, hosting a cable television show on Australia's bicentennial celebration.
Former chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr., two of the Anteaters' best-ever swimmers and a former two-time tennis All-American will be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame Sunday during a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at the Bren Center.
Aldrich, the founding chancellor of UC Irvine, swimmers Mike (Martin) Sherrill and Thomas Boughey and tennis player Robert Chappell will join 18 previous inductees in the 6-year-old Hall of Fame.
Aldrich was appointed chancellor of the school in 1962 and oversaw development of the campus until it opened in 1965. Aldrich, who retired in 1984, is a consultant on agriculture and world food production.
Aldrich, who lives in Laguna Niguel, is active in seniors' track and field competition despite an ongoing battle against cancer. Last November, he placed second in the discus and sixth in the hammer throw at the World Senior Track and Field Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
Sherrill, whose last name was Martin when he competed at Irvine, is the top swimmer in the school's history. He swam at Irvine from 1967 to '71, winning 10 individual national titles and was a member of six national-champion relay teams. A four-year swimming All-American, he also was named an All-American in water polo three times.
Boughey was a six-time national champion in swimming and a four-time All-American. He competed for the Anteaters from 1971 to '75 and won the 1,650-yard freestyle three straight years, setting a national record (16:19.65) in the event in 1974. Boughey has finished fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.
Chappell played tennis at Irvine from 1971 to '74 before turning pro during his senior season. He was named All-American three times and won the college-division singles championship as a freshman. He won both the singles and doubles titles as a junior.
Bill Mulligan, Irvine basketball coach, has been saying it most of the season. Finally, the pollsters have agreed.
"We've got three of the best five teams in the country in the West," Mulligan said a month ago. "You can't argue with that. How long before (Dick) Vitale, (Al) McGuire and those guys quit honking for the East and Midwest and admit it?"