Jeanette Ottesen, the Danish world swimming champion, and her boyfriend Marco Loughran, an English backstroke specialist who competed in the 2012 Olympics, were both injured after being assaulted during a road rage attack on Østerbrogade in Copenhagen on Sunday.
Ottesen, whose injuries might jeopardise her chances of competing in the next major championship, told TV2 Sport the alleged attacker was angered because he thought she was driving too slowly and was not quick enough pulling away when a red light turned green.
Of foreign appearance
Ottesen said the man, who she described as being of “foreign appearance”, nearly “drove into them” and then pulled in front of their car and cut them off. He then pulled Loughran out of the car and attacked him.
“A lot of people with foreign backgrounds pulled Marco away from the man and told him to get lost,” Ottesen said. “They were quite intimidating.”
But as they tried to leave, the man returned to the car and continued to punch Loughran, this time pummelling him repeatedly where he sat, through the car’s open window.
Loughran was severely injured, suffering a split eyebrow, several broken teeth, an injured shoulder and a scalp injury.
“We had safety belts on, so we couldn’t do anything,” Ottesen said. “Marco was trying to take off his seatbelt and I was trying to protect his face. That is when my fingers were injured.”
When Ottesen tried to defend Loughran, one of her fingers was broken and another one sprained.
The timing of the injuries could be critical for Ottesen. She has been told she cannot swim for the next three weeks, putting her chances of competing in the FINA World Aquatics Championships, which start on July 24, in serious jeopardy.
She is taking some time off to recover from the injury and said that she has experienced pain when she has tried to swim since the incident.
She told TV2 Sport that she thinks she will be ready for the national team’s training camp in Croatia – a camp designed specifically to prepare the Danish team for the championships.
Ottesen is one of Denmark’s medal hopes. She won one gold medal at the 2011 championships, and another at the 2013 championships.
The couple are still in shock and have spoken to psychologists.
Ottesen said she thought she and Loughran were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“The man who attacked us had evil eyes,” she said. “It was as if he just wanted to hurt someone and we happened to be the closest to him.”
The couple said they got the man’s licence plate number. Copenhagen Police are investigating.