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  • Tuesday, March 28, 2000

    French skater slashed on arm at hotel

     NICE, France (AP) -- A French pairs skater was attacked in a hotel room Tuesday by a man who cut him on the forearm with a razor and then fled down the corridor.

     Stephane Bernadis received several stitches and, bandaged wrist to elbow, returned to practice hours later at the World Figure Skating Championships.

     "We are unable to say if the attack is random or premeditated or the act of a crazy person," said Didier Gailhaguet, head of the organizing committee and president of the French skating federation. "To his knowledge, Bernadis had not received any previous threats.

     The attack unsettled many of the skaters and recalled the blow to Nancy Kerrigan's knee during the 1994 nationals and the 1993 courtside stabbing of Monica Seles.

     Bernadis was cut when he answered the door but was able to slam it, preventing the man from getting inside, Gailhaguet said. The skater was too disoriented to provide a detailed description of the attacker, he said.

     The 26-year-old skater practiced tentatively with partner Sarah Abitbol -- throwing her only once and not doing any lifts.

     "They didn't take any risks," said the pair's manager, Gilles Beyer. "That's why he doesn't make the left arm work too much. What was important was to skate again after what happened."

     Beyer said the seven-time French national champions would decide after practice Wednesday whether they would compete in the final, long program later that night. The skaters are contenders for a medal after finishing fourth in the short program.

     The championship's organizing committee pledged additional safety measures, without being specific. Security at the hotel had been relaxed at skaters' request, said Djelloul Hassan, chief of security at the championships.

     "We're concerned, but confident the organizing committee is taking the necessary steps to secure the safety of the U.S. team and all the athletes," U.S. Figure Skating Association spokesman Bob Dunlop said.

     The members of the French team had each been assigned a bodyguard 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.

     French ice dancer Gwendal Peizerat, who saw Bernadis after the attack, said the skater was determined to compete. Piezerat received threatening letters and phone calls following the 1998 Olympics.

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

     Kerrigan was unable to compete in the nationals, but she came back for the Olympics and finished a close second to Oksana Baiul.

     Seles was attacked at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, by an obsessed Steffi Graf fan. The stabbing took a severe psychological toll on Seles. She was unable to return to competition for more than two years and never regained her earlier form.



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