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Undaunted after shark attack, Anderson competes in Heart O' Dixie

By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
July 22, 2001
PHILADELPHIA Most of us, fortunately, can only imagine what Jessie Arbogast, the eight-year-old victim of the recent shark attack at Pensacola, Fla., went through.
Chuck Anderson, however, knows exactly what it's like to be in that situation.
Anderson, 46, suffered a similar attack by a bull shark on June 9, 2000, while training for a triathlon.
Anderson is doing all he can to return to a normal life and competed in the 22nd annual Heart O' Dixie Triathlon Saturday. He finished No. 186 overall out of 245 individual finishers with a time of 2:55:42. The winning time of 1:51:33 belonged to Joseph Curro.
Of the three events  swimming, biking, and running  Anderson said the biking was the most difficult for him.
The shark attacks on Anderson and Arbogast are eerily similar. Arbogast had his right arm bitten off and lost nearly a third of his thigh. His body was almost completely drained of blood and it took nearly 11 hours of surgery just to reattach the arm after it was retrieved from the bull shark's stomach by his uncle, who just happens to be a triathlete.
Two of the three surgeons needed to perform the delicate operation just happened to be at Baptist Hospital when Arbogast arrived after having performed a five-hour surgery on a child that had been run over by a cement truck.
Anderson (6-feet, 230 pounds) had his right forearm bitten off by a bull shark that was never captured. That same shark also bit deeply into the hip of his companion, Richard Whatley, in the same attack.
At the time, their attack was just the second ever reported in Alabama.
The locations where Anderson and Arbogast were attacked are only 30 miles apart.
Anderson was swimming in waist-deep water off the public beach at Gulf Shores, Ala., while Arbogast, who is from Ocean Springs, was wading in knee-deep water at Langdon Beach near Pensacola Beach.
According to the International Shark Attack File, the odds of a shark attack are 300 million to one. However, the number of attacks rose in 2000 with 79 confirmed unprovoked attacks on humans with 10 fatalities as the result. Of the 51 attacks in the U.S. last year, none happened in Mississippi.
It is the highest yearly total since the ISAF began keeping such statistics in 1958 and was 21 above the 1999 total.
Of the unprovoked attacks in the U.S., 34 occurred in Florida with North Carolina having the second-highest total with five.
The record bull shark in Mississippi was caught in the 1983 Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo and weighed 885 pounds. They often reach 10-12 feet in length.
Anderson has done a lot to help the Arbogast family.
Anderson, a former teacher, football coach, and assistant principal at Robertsdale (Ala.) High School, was recently promoted to athletic director for the Baldwin County Schools.
One would think he would have every reason to be bitter. That isn't the way he's going to handle it, however.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3234, or e-mail him at mstamper@themeridianstar.com.