French athlete Wilfried Happio won a national title in 400m hurdles at the French Elite Athletics Championships in Caen on Saturday, just shortly after being assaulted during warmups.
About 20 minutes before the race, an individual got past security at Helitas Stadium in Caen, France. The attacker approached Happio, 23, and punched him several times on the face. The motive for the attack is still not known.
Olivier Vallaeys, Happio’s coach, witnessed the assault and immediately stepped in to try to stop the altercation. Eventually the police showed up and the attacker was arrested.
Happio approached the starting line not long after and said he was fit to compete, but he had to do so with a patch and bandage over his left eye. Per RMC Sport, Happio was also coughing up blood just moments before the race.
Despite all of that, Happio registered a personal best of 48.57 seconds in the event.
After the event, Happio was taken to the hospital for further examination. Per reports, the French Athletics Federation and the city of Caen were going to file a complaint against the attacker on Sunday.
“I don’t want to dwell on it,” Happio told L’Equipe after the race. “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.”
Happio’s victory helped him qualify the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, which are set to happen from July 15 to July 24. He participated at the Toyko Olympics in the 400m hurdles event, but finish seventh in his semifinal.