Yet Ironman competitor still loves PE enough to stay on
A veteran Ironman competitor could be forced to undergo facial reconstruction after he sustained cheekbone fractures and an injured eye socket in a brutal attack last week.
Miroslav Vrastil, 66, from the Czech Republic, has told how at least 10 men ambushed him while he was cycling along Victoria Drive on Monday last week.
Vrastil, who has been in Port Elizabeth since February and has 76 Ironmans under his belt, was found by residents. He had been beaten and robbed of his cellphone and passport.
His passport was recovered shortly afterwards.
Vrastil said the midday incident was a complete shock.
“The group of men, walking in the same direction as I was going, appeared on the side of the road and, as I was approaching them, they split to both sides of the road and left a narrow passage for me to ride through.”
Vrastil said he immediately felt uneasy but was too close to stop or turn around.
“As I was riding through, they suddenly kicked my bicycle from both sides, trying to make me fall, and my chain came off.
“I don’t remember falling, but I suspect I was hit with an object.
“All I remember is waking up and lying on the ground, with people around me,” the father of seven said.
Vrastil suffered a concussion and temporary amnesia, struggling to remember his name or where he lived.
He was taken to hospital by ambulance.
After he was discharged, he contacted Port Elizabeth couple Eva and Terry Thornton, who had befriended him on Facebook.
The Thorntons took him in for two days and helped nurse him.
“His injuries were quite serious,” Eva said. “If you’re in a [foreign] country, where you don’t know anybody, and something like this happens, you need people.”
Vrastil’s other injuries included a broken rib and a broken shoulder.
A specialist will decide this week if surgery is needed on his face.
Vrastil, who has moved into a flat in Walmer, decided to stay on in the city because “I just love the place”.
“It’s good weather and it’s good for training, the people are friendly and I am also running away from winter in Europe,” he said with the help of an interpreter.
Vrastil is scheduled to fly to Australia next month for another Ironman event.
Last month, two Ironman athletes on a training ride were robbed separately on the same day in Victoria Drive.
And this weekend, there was an unconfirmed report of yet another cyclist being mugged on the same road.
Mayoral committee member John Best said the committee had a meeting with the police last week and would follow up with Ironman organisers this week.
“We are working on coming up with a strategy on how to get cyclists to train on the Ironman routes which are much safer,” Best said. “There are some routes we do not recommend that cyclists train on and we want to tell them there are safer routes they could train on.”
Best said the metro police had also been stationed along the route.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said the investigation was ongoing.
“We are monitoring the situation and we do perform crime-prevention duties within the area,” she said.
Ironman managing director Keith Bowler said they had received no information on the latest incidents.
“We have not received any pressure to change the routes, although we have our contingency plans,” he said.
“We cannot comment [on the latest attacks] as nothing has been brought to our attention.”