Aussie Paralympians robbed at gunpoint in Rio

Fitzgibbon Tesch

Australian Sailing and the Australian Paralympic Committee have been advised of an incident involving two members of the Australian Paralympic Sailing Team in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday morning (Sunday night AEST).

Athlete, Liesl Tesch and team official, Sarah Ross, were confronted by two men while riding their bikes in a park near their hotel.  One of the men was carrying a pistol and while both were threatened, the bikes were the only property stolen during the incident.

Both members are unharmed, but understandably shaken, and took part in racing at the Paralympic sailing venue later in the day.

“We were returning from a morning ride when the incident took place,” said Tesch.  “We were close to our hotel when we were confronted by two men, one of whom was armed.  I was threatened with the pistol and pushed to the ground.  He took my bike, and the other perpetrator took Sarah’s bike.  We are both shaken, but physically we’re both OK.” 

The incident was reported to the local tourist police who are offering ongoing assistance to the team and will continue to investigate.  

At this stage, Australian Sailing is providing support to both team members to ensure their wellbeing. 

“The safety of our team members is paramount,” said Matt Carroll, CEO of Australian Sailing.  “We will continue to work with the Australian Paralympic Committee and Australian Federal Police to ensure our team has an appropriate level of security to ensure their safety in the lead-up to, and during, both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  In the meantime we will continue to ensure our team currently in Rio has the support they need.”

Kate McLoughlin, Chef de Mission of the 2016 Australian Paralympic Team, said the Australian Paralympic Sailing Team was understandably shaken by the incident.

Officials from the Australian Embassy in Brasilia have since been to the Australian team’s hotel to offer assistance, and have liaised with local authorities.

“Our first priority has been to work with Australian Sailing and DFAT to ensure everyone on our Paralympic Sailing Team receives any support they may need,” McLoughlin said.

“We have also been in constant contact with members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), who we have worked very closely with during our planning process for the Rio Games.”

McLoughlin said the advice from the AFP, which has been communicated by the APC to all of its sports aiming to compete at the Games, is to always exercise a high degree of caution while travelling in Rio.

“That advice is particularly important before the Paralympic Games period,” McLoughlin said. “We know there will be a hugely elevated level of security in place during the Paralympic Games, but for athletes and teams travelling there before the Games, there is a heightened need to be security conscious.”

Further information and assistance is being sought from local authorities and investigations into the incident are ongoing. 

– Australian Sailing

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