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French Hurdler Punched in the Eye 20 Minutes Before the Race Goes on to Win

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French 400m hurdler Wilfried Happio was violently assaulted during his pre-race warm-up at the French Elite Athletics Championships in Caen, France last weekend. Just minutes after, he went on to win the national title.

Happio’s attacker evaded security and approached the 23-year-old athlete, at which point he proceeded to punch him in the face until Happio’s coach Olivier Vallaeys, security and police restrained and arrested the attacker. The motive for the assault remains unknown.

Following the assault, Happio bandaged his eye and used a headband to secure it in place, before declaring himself fit enough to run the race, which happened to be an important one: the final of the 400m hurdles. Despite coughing up blood post-attack, he took to the start line and not only won the race but also recorded a PB of 48.57.

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Happio told L’Equipe after the race that he did not want to dwell on what happened. ‘We’ll leave that to the competent people. To talk about the race, we worked a lot, we redid the music and that’s it. The feelings were good. I’m glad I did this time. Physically I’m fine.’

Describing the attack, Vallaeys said that ‘a guy came from nowhere asked if it was really him, Wilfried Happio, threw himself on him’.

‘The guy was arrested,’ he added. ‘Wilfried is fine. But I’m speechless, it’s a mess. Sheer aggression. It’s outrageous. These are savage methods.’

The result means that Happio will qualify for the World Athletics Championships, which take place in Eugene, Oregon, from 15-24 July.

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