Despite a Sports Illustrated cover shot, Petra Nemcova claims she was never much for sports. But the 25-year-old Czech supermodel -- who has made three consecutive appearances in the magazine's swimsuit edition -- tries to follow the NBA and NHL when she's not island-hopping for photo shoots. Nemcova's first solo calendar, which will benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research, hits stores this week.

Are you an athlete?

I love playing things, but I wasn't the best one. What I really love, which I found out later, probably five years ago, is scuba diving. I find it amazing and beautiful, another world, but also very exciting. I didn't realize you can get so much adrenaline. We had this thing happening to us once, which was amazing -- we went down and found a few different sharks. Super exciting, super adrenaline. Because of the excitement, we lost lots of air. We had 20 bar left, which is really, really low. . . . We got up in the air, and we laughed -- it was so much adrenaline. We thought we were going to die, actually, but then we were so happy and so excited.

So that didn't make you want to stop?

Oh, no no no, it made me wanting more. I like the adrenaline. I love scuba diving, but also motorbikes and speed bikes.

You ride bikes?

I don't -- I wanted to learn, but everybody is like: "You are crazy. Don't do that." If you have an accident, even just a scratch, then you are out of work for a few months. But with my boyfriend we are driving together; at least this way I am a passenger. I know in the future I'll get my license; I'm going to have some fun.

What's harder, scuba diving or posing in a swimsuit?

What's harder? Well, there is a danger in both of these situations. There are sharks in the water and in the studio, you know? I love both of them; I love scuba diving and I love my work.

Who's a bigger Czech hero, Ivan Lendl or Jaromir Jagr?

They're both amazing, you can't say who is bigger. Maybe Jagr at this moment because he's still very active, but they're both amazing stars and national heroes.

Are sports bigger in the U.S. or in the Czech Republic?

Oh, definitely in the U.S. People here, they live by their sports. It's a huge part of the culture here, and it's nice because it keeps people motivated and they push themselves, often very, very hard, from their youth. There are two kinds of people: people with a goal who focus on it and get it, and people who sit on their butts and wait, and if something happens it falls in their hands. I see it in anything, in sports or modeling, any kind of profession. If you are focused, you get it. It's like a law of the universe.

Does it bother you that Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova get so much attention because of their looks?

I've seen also the two American beach volleyball players when they do the Olympics -- at the moment it's kind of mixing together sport and beauty. It doesn't bother me; everybody has the same kind of chance. They are special women; I'm very pleased for them.

Any favorite sporting events?

I just went to see soccer in England -- it was very great. It was very funny, because the English, they sing all the time.

Did you sing along?

Not really singing -- kind of pretending to sing. I'm not the best singer.

-- Dan Steinberg

NEMCOVA