Natalie Sparks has shared a lane with an unlikely companion at the recent South Eastern Swimming Association Championships.
Racing in Corrimal's outdoor pool, Sparks found her path to the finish wall obstructed by a drake.
Unaware of the fierce racing going on around it, the bird was enjoying a wade in the pool's warm water before the 17-year-old approached.
Sparks was focused on her charge for gold in the 50 metre breaststroke race, the teenager not seeing the crane until a collision seemed imminent.
"It frightened the living daylights out of me," Sparks said. "And what's more I lost a valuable second or two off my time.
"I saw the bird when I was standing on the blocks and thought it would take off with the starter's hooter. However, I was only less than a metre away and it was still there. When I came up from my glide, ready to take another stroke, the bird flew off.
"Certainly some things you will always remember".
While you're with us the Illawarra Mercury is offering sport readers 20% off an annual digital subscription. Sign up to stay up to date with all the local sports you love for only $3.00 a week. Terms and conditions apply.