ALSO ON SLAM!
Wednesday, March 29, 2000
Bizarre attack probed
French skater's arm slashed
NICE, France -- Security forces were placed on high alert at the world figure-skating championships after reports that a razor-wielding assailant is responsible for a gash on the left arm of French pairs skater Stephane Bernadis.
The attack is said to have occurred when Bernadis, 26, answered a knock at his hotel room door at approximately 3:30 p.m. yesterday French time.
Organizers say the assailant slashed Bernadis' arm with what police described as a razor blade, inflicting a wound that required three or four stitches to close. Bernadis apparently was able to shut the door before suffering further injuries.
Bernadis and partner Sarah Abitbol, fourth after Monday's short program, are expected to participate in the free-skate competition tonight at the Palais des Expositions. The pair practised last night.
The hotel where Bernadis has been staying, the Sofitel, is beside the main arena.
"He has been very psychologically shocked by what has happened," said Didier Gailhaguet, president of the Nice 2000 organizing committee. "But his health is good and he's doing much better."
Police have not identified a suspect and said they don't know whether the attack was premeditated, a robbery attempt or just a random act of violence by a lunatic.
"Apparently there are some of them in this world," Gailhaguet said.
Right from the start, security has been much tighter than normal for a world championships. Gailhaguet said that was in response to previous incidents of violence in the sport.
The highest-profile case involving figure skating occurred at the 1994 U.S. championships when Tonya Harding's bodyguard attacked her arch-rival Nancy Kerrigan with a club.
Gailhaguet told journalists yesterday that security would be further tightened.
There were suggestions yesterday that the French camp's explanation of Bernadis' cut is a hoax. Either way, including the announcement of a positive drug test by Russian pairs world champion Elena Berezhnaya, these worlds have taken on a circus-like atmosphere.
"Skating never ceases to amaze me, on or off the ice," Elvis Stojko said. "There always is something that goes on in our sport. Kind of keeps people interested. It's unfortunate these things happen. But it's reality and we have to deal with it. I just hope nobody gets hurt."
Gailhaguet said everyone was panic-stricken when he arrived at the hotel. He said Bernadis was taken to a quiet location to rest after being released from the hospital.
The Montreal-based pairs team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier is in third place entering tonight's free skate. In the short program, French fans booed when their favourites were placed one spot below the Canadians.
Members of the Canadian delegation were briefed yesterday about the attack and increased security, although nobody appeared to be overly concerned.
"I'm not afraid," Pelletier said. "Not at all."