Lookout

updated 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

His tiny rump tucked firmly into his shorts, 28-month-old Ben Loveland toddled off with the Australian junior national championship for accurate boomerang throwing in April 1982. By hurling his "boomie" 20 meters and having it come right back to him, Ben vanquished a field of some 20 other competitors (the second-place finisher was 14) to become what is believed to be the youngest sports champion in history. Now 3, the blue-eyed, 38-pound Ben toured the United States last month, giving boomerang demonstrations in Oakland, Calif., Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Oreg., Washington, D.C. and Madison, Wis. The young star's entourage included his teddy bear, Baby, his electrician father, Trevor, his housewife mum, Leanne, and his grandfather, Bunny Read, a retired railroad engineer. Ben clearly inherited his affinity for the sport of many happy returns from Read, the 1982 world champion boomerang thrower. "Ben cut his teeth on boomerangs," Read claims. "I think he preferred them to his rattle." At 18 months, Ben would fling a boomie around the yard of his parents' home outside Melbourne, all the while gurgling, "More, more." A well-behaved youngster, Ben is nonetheless a tough interview. Does he enjoy throwing boomies? "Yes." What's the secret of his boomerang success? "I get them to come back." Spoken like a champion.

As dust drifted down over the earthquake-ravaged city of Coalinga, Calif. two months ago, David Hedman, 26, shook his head and then reached for the ringing phones. Based 165 miles away in Palo Alto, Hedman's company, Earthquake Safety, fields as many as 200 calls a day from frightened homeowners, corporation heads and government officials asking how to cope with life on the fault lines. Hedman started in 1981 with an earthquake-information hotline at Stanford University, where he was majoring in economics. Seven months later the service moved off campus and became a private company with the San Diego native as president. Today the 14-member staff has provided earthquake safety information to 45 American cities as well as the countries of Israel, Japan and Portugal. Corporations like American Airlines and Shell Oil have had their plants critiqued, and for $75 plus a mileage charge for one of Hedman's employees, a homeowner can have his property evaluated for seismic risk. This service includes a geological analysis, inspection of the foundation and gaslines, and advice on the safest place to sit out a quake. The son of a high school guidance counselor, Hedman (above, in a room of his old apartment rigged to look like an earthquake had struck) has experienced six minor quakes. "We don't want to scare people," says Hedman, "but our whole purpose is to say, 'Look, you don't know when the Big One is coming, so you had better prepare now.' "

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