SYDNEY, Australia, Jun 21 – An Australian Paralympian and her physiotherapist have been robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro, where violent crime has surged just months before the Olympics.
The Australian Paralympic Committee said sailor and wheelchair basketball player Liesl Tesch and team official Sarah Ross were riding their bikes in a park on Sunday.
They were confronted by two men, one of them carrying a pistol, who demanded money before shoving them off the bikes and riding off on them.
Kate McLoughlin, chef de mission of the Australian Paralympic team, said the pair, in Rio to train at the Paralympic sailing venue, were shaken but unhurt.
“We know there will be a hugely elevated level of security in place during the Paralympic Games,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
“But for athletes and teams travelling there before the Games, there is a heightened need to be security conscious.”
Rio is experiencing a spike in crime and robberies ahead of the Olympics which open on August 5.
Earlier this month, a Brazilian competitive shooter, who just missed out on a spot on the Olympic team, was shot in the head during an attempted robbery in Rio.
It followed the armed mugging of members of the Spanish sailing team in the city last month.
Tesch, who won gold in sailing at the London Paralympics and has also won silver and bronze medals in basketball, said Rio was “a pretty scary place to be”.
She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that several people saw the incident but no one came to help.
“I think he said ‘dinheiro’… which means money, so I lifted up my shirt and said: ‘Look I don’t have any money’,” she told the broadcaster.
“He then said something else and pointed the gun at me and pushed me in the shoulder and I just toppled over with my bicycle and he just grabbed my bicycle, and the other guy was wrestling the bicycle from our team physio.
“And they just rode off into the park. It was absolutely horrific.”
The Paralympics take place in Brazil from September 7 to 18.