Australian Paralympic Athlete Robbed at Gunpoint in Rio: 'It Was Absolutely Horrific'
"It was absolutely horrific, I can see it clear as day in my own head," Liesl Tesch said
The Australian Olympic Committee demanded Rio de Janeiro take action to increase security after a Paralympic athlete was robbed at gunpoint while training in the Olympic host city on Sunday.
Paralympic sailor Liesl Tesch and team physiotherapist Sarah Ross were taking a bike ride in a park near their hotel early Sunday when they were stopped by two men, one of whom was carrying a gun, Reuters reports.
Tesch, who won a gold medal in sailing at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, said the armed man pointed his gun at her legs and made a demand for money.
“I think he said ‘dinero.’ I speak some Spanish, so I lifted up my shirt and showed him I had no money,” Tesch, 47, told an Australian news channel, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“And then he said something else, but I don’t know what he said, lifted the gun up towards me and then pushed me in the shoulder and I just fell down on the cobblestones,” she continued.
The men then stole both women’s bikes and “just rode off into the park,” recalled Tesch, who is still able to cycle despite a mountain bike accident when she was 19 that left her an incomplete paraplegic.
“It was absolutely horrific, I can see it clear as day in my own head,” she said.
Australia’s Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller called the incident “extremely concerning and disturbing,” especially because it took place in broad daylight close to the training venue.
“We’re demanding that the level of security forces, which number about 100,000, is reviewed and also we are also asking that they are deployed earlier prior to Games time, especially around training and competition venues,” Miller told reporters in Sydney, according to Reuters.
This was the second reported robbery involving Olympic sailors in Rio. In May, two Spanish sailors and a coach were robbed at gunpoint in a popular tourist area.
Fernando Echavarri, who won a gold medal in sailing at the 2008 Olympics, said he felt “lucky to have survived,” after five young men “not more than 16,” robbed him and two other men as they walked to breakfast, according to the Associated Press.
“We made a big mistake,” Echavarri said after the incident. “We should have caught a taxi, taken a car and avoided a thing like this. We have to be careful, but the city needs more policing.”
Brazilian authorities have insisted that the Olympic Games will be safe for visitors, as 85,000 armed soldiers and police officers will patrol the city’s streets.
However, the number of homicides in Rio state increased 15 percent in the first 4 months of 2016 compared with last year, according to the Washington Post. José Beltrame, state security secretary for Rio, blamed the state’s increase in crime on the state’s financial crisis that has resulted in a 30 percent cut in the state’s security budget.
“Without any doubt, the situation got worse in the last four months,” Beltrame said.