Local man swims with the fishes
Loganville resident wins aquarium contest

ATLANTA - Luis Torres originally obtained his diving certification as a way to extend his vacation options, but the Loganville resident said he never thought the training would one day aid him in a day of underwater bliss.

The 41-year-old Realtor swam with the Georgia Aquarium's renowned whale sharks Monday as one of 24 winners of an online contest.

"It was exciting. It was a great experience," Torres said. "Especially to be with those huge whale sharks."

While swimming figure eights around the tank, Torres explained he was warned not to interact with the large fish, which he was awed by.

"There was a hammerhead shark, which I was told swam over my head, but I didn't see it," Torres said. "There was a sawtooth shark, groupers that were just huge - they told me not to touch those or wave my fingers at them."

"The whale sharks, the four of them, were amazing,"

Torres said.

The contest winner said he stumbled upon the entry site just a few weeks ago while visiting the aquarium's Web site to purchase season tickets.

"I was shocked," Torres said when he received word of the news of his prize.

While splashing around with the whales for nearly 45 minutes, cameras filmed the fun.

Torres' and Chillocothe, Ill. winner Roberta Hudson's dive will air this morning on NBC's "Today" show and the pair will be interviewed live by morning show host Meredith Vieira and weather aficionado Al Roker.

Torres admitted he was a little nervous about being on TV, but said he was excited.

"My wife said, 'Make sure you talk proper and act right,'" Torres said with a laugh.

Aquarium spokeswoman Michaelanne Thomas said the world's largest aquarium partnered with the "Today" show to offer people the chance to have a behind-the-scenes view of the magnificent sea life.

"I think it's a great way to give people the extraordinary view of the biggest aquarium in the world," Thomas said.

More than 120,000 entries were received to which the winners were randomly selected, Thomas said.

This morning is the second time "Today" has aired live from the Atlanta-based marine attraction. Thomas said the show filmed the aquarium's opening in November 2005.

SideBar: If you watch

What: "Today" show comes to the Georgia Aquarium

When: 7 a.m. today

Where: NBC