Competitive junior surfer says small shark bit her ankle, tried to drag her off board

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SYDNEY — A competitive junior surfer said a small shark bit her ankle and tried to drag her from her board Friday morning as she surfed off the Australian east coast.

Kirra-Belle Olsson, 13, was bitten on the left ankle by a 1-meter (3.5-foot) shark while surfing off Avoca Beach, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Sydney, police said.

She sustained puncture wounds to her foot and a cut to her calf, police said.

Kirra-Belle, who has won numerous junior surfing titles, said she initially thought the shark was a friend tugging on her leg.

"It just swung me around and tried to pull me under and I saw the tail and ... I really didn't know what to do so I just started screaming," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. at Gosford Hospital.

"I paddled ... in shock (I) just started laughing, I was like, 'Whoa, what the hell, I just got bitten by a shark,'" she told Seven Network television.

Kirra-Belle, who lives at nearby Copacabana, was treated on the beach by bystanders, who then drove her to the hospital.

She said she expected to compete at national titles in Western Australia state in December despite her injuries.

Two weeks ago, a surfer had part of his arm torn off by a suspected 4-meter (13-foot) great white shark while surfing off the coast of Western Australia near the town of Esperance.

Although sharks are common in Australian waters, the country has averaged fewer than two fatal attacks per year in recent decades.

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