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2000 Worlds

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  • Tuesday, March 28, 2000

    Canadians worried about security

     NICE, France (CP) -- Canadian officials expressed concern about security at the athletes' hotel at the world figure skating championships after French skater Stephane Bernadis was attacked by an unknown razor-wielding assailant Tuesday.

     Bernadis, 26, required three or four stitches to close a wound on his arm. He had answered a knock at his door at 3:30 p.m. local time and a male cut him with a razor, said Didier Gaillaghuet, head of the organizing committee for the championships.

     The attacker slashed Bernadis's arm when the skater opened the door to his room, but the skater was able to close the door and keep the attacker out.

     "We are unable to say if the attack is random or premeditated or the act of a crazy person," Gailhaguet said.

     To his knowledge, Bernadis had not received any previous threats. Gailhaguet said Bernadis was too disoriented to provide a good description of the man.

     Canada's team is staying at the same Sofitel hotel, which is attached to the exhibition hall where the championships are taking place.

     Security has been intensified, said Gaillaghuet. Still, the athletes are concerned.

     "I'm a little bit worried because we don't know who that person is," said Benoit Lavoie of Quebec City, one of the Canadian team leaders.

     Bernadis and partner Sarah Abitbol were fourth in the pairs short program Monday. They will compete in Wednesday's long program, said Gaillaghuet.

     "He was very psychologically shocked by what happened but his health is good and after relaxing he is feeling fine," Gaillaghuet said. "He's fully ready to skate."

     Abitbol was in another part of the city when the attack occurred.

     Security guards have roamed the neighbourhood since last week, and muzzled dogs have been placed near arena entrances since competition began Monday as part of a pre-arranged plan. Now, more officers are visible.

     Gailhaguet said additional measures would be taken to protect competitors, without being specific.

     The members of the French team had each been assigned a body guard before the championships. However, Pierre Montheillet, technical director of the French ice sports federation, said the measures were taken to provide a buffer with enthusiastic French fans, not because of any specific threat.

     Lavoie said the Canadian team asked hotel management last Friday that telephone calls to athletes be monitored more closely so their privacy could be guarded. But on Tuesday, the hotel switchboard was continuing to route calls directly to skaters' rooms.

     Abitbol and Bernadis finished fifth at the 1999 world championships. They teamed up in 1992.

     It has been a difficult season. At the Grand Prix final in Lyon in January, Abitbol fell on a triple throw Axel attempt and chipped a tooth.

     Their long program for these championships is titled Angel and Devil, describing a battle between good and bad.

     Security at figure skating championships has been a concern since Nancy Kerrigan was struck on the knee by an assailant at the 1994 U.S. championships in Detroit. Kerrigan's chief rival, Tonya Harding, pleaded guilty to covering up for her former husband and his friends, who planned and carried out the attack.

     "Skating never ceases to amaze me -- on or off the ice," said Canadian champion Elvis Stojko. "It's unfortunate the things that happen to keep it in the public's eye sometimes. I just hope in all of this nobody gets hurt."



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