Former priest attacks runner

2004-08-29 21:44
Athens - An Irish protester ran from the crowd and pushed the leader of the Olympic Games men's marathon to the roadside in a bizarre incident on the final day of the Games here on Sunday.

Long-time race leader Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil was approaching a point about 8km from the end of the race when a man dressed in a red kilt and black beret rushed from the crowd and pushed him into the spectators lining the road.

De Lima appeared shocked, but got back to his feet and resumed the race.

He was soon caught by eventual winner Stefano Baldini of Italy and Mebrahtom Keflezighi of the United States although the Brazilian hung on to take the bronze medal.

Spectators had restrained the man until he was arrested by police and led away.

The protester was named as Cornelius Horan, 57, a former priest with psychiatric problems who disrupted last year's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, a Greek government official told AFP.

It was another embarrassment for the organisers of the Athens Games, who had been forced to review their $1.2bn security plan in the first week of competition after a spectator jumped into the pool at a diving event.

Horan was wearing a sign on his back reading "Israel fulfillment of prophecy" and "The second coming is near says the bible. The Grand Prix priest."

After finishing the race in the Panathinaiko stadium, De Lima said the incident had cost him the gold medal.

"I was very shocked," he said. "I'm glad with the bronze but I was giving everything I had for the gold medal when he attacked.

"I'm not physically hurt, but it threw me out of my rythmn. I am sure I would have won the gold if it had not been for this crazy idiot.

"I lost the gold medal in that moment, but I was afraid because I didn't know whether he was armed."

The International Olympic Committee announced it was awarding De Lima with the Pierre de Coubertin medal for his achievement in continuing in the race.

"In recognition of Lima's exceptional demonstration of fair play and valour during this evening's marathon, the IOC will present him with the Pierre de Coubertin medal."

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