Athlete back in the saddle after attack

Frederik van Lierde
Frederik van Lierde

Van Lierde again fully focused on Ironman

Belgian professional triathlete Frederik van Lierde, who was mugged and robbed in Walmer last week, has placed the attack behind him and is now focusing on the Ironman African Championship event in the city on Sunday.

Van Lierde, 37, was cycling in preparation for the Ironman when he was attacked by a gang of four thugs in Victoria Drive on Friday, just before 4pm.

He was hit on the head and robbed of his iPhone 7 and sunglasses.

Hours earlier, recreational cyclist and newcomer to Port Elizabeth Leon Killian, 57, was mugged by a group of five men on the same stretch of road.

While declining a full interview, Van Lierde – who is the 2015 Ironman African champion and 2013 Ironman world champion – said: “I have a big race coming up on Sunday, and I am trying to focus on that.

“You guys [media] know what happened – I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I am just focusing on the race – if I win it, that will be the big story.”

Asked if he had noticed anything strange in the moments before the attack, he said: “I didn’t see or hear anything. I was practising for the race, so I was not thinking of anything else.”

A day after the attack Van Lierde, who has been in Port Elizabeth for almost two weeks, wrote on his Twitter page: “We can confirm that Frederik is recovering from an incident which happened during a training ride in Port Elizabeth, South Africa where he was attacked by a group.

“Thankfully, Frederik escaped relatively unharmed and intends to participate in the race.

“We are overwhelmed by the support of Frederik’s fans and appreciate the help offered by the Ironman team.”

On Sunday, the athlete confirmed on Twitter that he had resumed his race preparations.

“Frederik is OK and training, from now on he can focus again on Sunday’s race Ironman South Africa.

“Thanks for all your messages and support.”

Ironman communications specialist Michael Flanagan said there was now security in place so athletes could prepare for the race peacefully.

“From this week there is a security plan in place. So the athletes will be able to train with metro police who will be patrolling in different sections of the course.”

Flanagan said the preparations for the triathlon were well under way and the construction crew was hard at work on site in Summerstrand.

“We have constructed the spectators’ bridge across Marine Drive and the rest of the crew is on site now getting things like the finish line and the competition area set up.”

Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said investigations into the Victoria Drive muggings were ongoing.

An investigation into a possible link between the incidents involving Van Lierde and Killian was being conducted.

Police would continue to patrol the area as athletes prepared for Sunday.

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