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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

High-Flying Aussie Teenager Gets Great Cable Reception

September 16, 2000|MIKE PENNER

SYDNEY, Australia — So who was that daring young girl in that flying routine?

The name is Nikki Webster, she's a 13-year-old Sydney schoolgirl, and when she was strapped into a harness and suddenly jerked by cable nearly 100 feet above the floor of Olympic Stadium on Friday, she shocked thousands of Australians attending the opening ceremony.

Including her parents.

Webster, the tiny star and focal point of the entertainment portion of the show, had to sign a confidentiality agreement before her all-purpose song-dance-and-aerial-swimming performance, forbidding her to discuss any details about her role in advance.

"It's a surprise," Webster kept telling her parents as they pressed her for clues in the days leading up to the ceremony. It was a surprise, all right. The routine began rather innocuously, with Webster pretending to fall asleep on a beach towel at the center of the arena, and in a blink, she rode a high-wire into a "deep sea dream sequence"--hoisted by cable eight stories up, where she pretended to swim around giant jellyfish and manta rays similarly suspended near the stadium rafters.

Next to the stalled bubbling Olympic caldron, it was the most frightening moment of the show, although Webster afterward described the experience as "amazing."

"I'm not scared of heights and I wasn't frightened at all," Webster said. "I just enjoy it."

Webster was hailed as a new national star in the next morning's newspapers. Expect her to quickly capitalize. Webster has an agent, has been involved in the entertainment since she was 5 and includes among show-business credits appearances in Australian stage productions of "The Sound of Music" and "Les Miserables."

Her next role sounds like a natural. She has signed on to perform in the stage revival of "Annie" in November, playing the lead orphan.

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