Another topline sportsman hits a hurdle in his career, another girlfriend/partner/wife/fling gets put in stocks and pelted with rotten fruit.

S-x and sport have long made for uneasy bedfellows — ever since the sirens tried to distract Orpheus and Odysseus on their way to the big game, strumming harps and singing them sweet nothings, but all the while trying to dash their ships, and hopes of victory, on the rocks.

Their modern-day incarnation is every bit as dangerous – if you believe everything you read. Now it seems Melbourne songstress Candice Alley, affianced to our No.1 swimmer Grant Hackett, is to blame for distracting Hackett from this month’s FINA world championships, and next year’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hackett, a Queenslander, surprised swimming officials when he moved from the Gold Coast to Melbourne last month in order to be closer to the 24-year-old Alley. He also took on a new coach. The pair will marry next month, squeezed in between the world championships and Olympic Games. In The Australian this morning, she rejected any talk that she was affecting Hackett’s training program. “Not at all,’’ she said. “If anything, I think the opposite because we get to look after each other.’’ Still, if Hackett slips up any time in the next 18 months, we’ll know who to blame.

None of the modern sirens came any bustier or more brazen than English model Gabrielle Richens, known the world over as The Pleasure Machine. In 1998, Canterbury rugby league player Solomon Haumono met Richens at a Sydney nightclub and immediately became smitten by the siren’s song, following her around as if in a love-struck daze. He disappeared to the United Kingdom to be with her, without telling his family or his club, jeopardising his $200,000 contract. Later, she was quoted as saying: “S-x keeps me healthy and fit – after all, it’s the only exercise I get.’’

In more recent times, Tiger Woods has also been caught up in the sportsman’s fiancee-as-fiend imbroglio. In November 2003, he became engaged to a Swedish model, Elin Nordegren, after a romance that began earlier that year. He did not win a major championship in 2003 or 2004, falling to second in the PGA Tour moneylist in 2003 and fourth in 2004. In September 2004, Woods’ record streak as the world’s top-ranked golfer came to an end, when he was leapfrogged by Fijian Vijay Singh. The “slump”, such as it was, was being blamed on the relationship with Nordegren – the boy wonder who spent most of his adolescence on the practice fairway finally discovering the joys of caressing something other than a golf club. When anyone who knew anything about the game would have understood he was completely remodelling his swing at that time, the fruits of which are now being seen today.

Bec, and a new family, have worn some of the blame for Lleyton Hewitt’s recent fall out of the world’s top 20 players. Scud and Delta were another of tennis’ star-crossed lovers, Philippoussis’ career going into freefall after squiring Goodrem, yet another Melbourne songstress, around the glamorous international tennis circuit. Eventually, of course, they split, Philippoussis telling Alan Jones on radio: “I need to get my career back on track and this [break-up] is a thing we both came up with.’’

An academic from the University of Sydney, Catharine Lumby, was quoted at the time in the Sydney Morning Herald as describing the phenomenon as the Samson and Delilah effect: “That Delta has been said to be affecting Scud’s game goes to the old idea that women’s sexual powers sap men’s strength. At its heart is a fear of women.’’

The list of sportsmen sailing into sirens’ rocks is endless. Wayne Carey’s career at the Kangaroos ended after having an affair with Anthony Stevens’ wife; Andre Agassi’s tennis rating slumped to 134 when he started dating film star Brooke Shields; Brian Lara’s involvement with lingerie model Lynnsey Ward was blamed for the West Indian batsman’s poor form. Warney’s myriad phone flings cost him any chance to be Australian cricket captain. Boris Becker was caught having s-x with a Russian model in a broom cupboard at a Japanese restaurant in London, an acrobatic performance that later produced a daughter.

So the siren song still rings loud. Whether sportsmen want to listen to it, or stuff wax in their ears as Odysseus did, is another matter altogether.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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