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Defrocked Irish priest attacks marathon leader

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  • Defrocked Irish priest attacks marathon leader

    Associated Press
    Posted: 16 hours ago

    ATHENS, Greece (AP) - A defrocked Irish priest bolted from the crowd and grabbed the marathon leader about three miles from the finish Sunday. The Brazilian runner wound up with the bronze - and a special award for sportsmanship - and the former priest was arrested.

    Cornelius Horan, 57, was wearing a green beret, a red kilt and knee-high green socks when he attacked Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima, knocking him into the crowd. De Lima was able to recover and finish, but was passed by two runners about a mile after the incident.

    An unidentified man grabs Vanderlei Lima of Brazil. (Koji Sasahara / AP)

    "I was scared, because I didn't know what could happen to me, whether he was armed with a knife, a revolver or something and whether he was going to kill me," de Lima said.

    "I don't know if I would have won, but things would have been different," he said. "After that, it was hard to get my rhythm back. It really distracted me."

    The Brazilian track federation protested the result and sought a duplicate gold medal for de Lima, but while the jurors expressed sympathy they said they couldn't change the result. Brazil said it would appeal to sports' international arbitration panel.

    "I'm not going to cry forever about the incident, although it broke my concentration," de Lima said, "but I managed to finish and the bronze medal in such a difficult marathon is also a great achievement."

    The International Olympic Committee said it would present de Lima with its Pierre de Coubertin medal in recognition of his "exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values."

    "I think the Olympic spirit prevailed and I prevailed. I was able to show that determination wins races," de Lima said after receiving his bronze medal at the Olympics' closing ceremony.

    "What prevailed here was the Olympic spirit. Never mind the result of the appeal. I'm very happy to have won this medal."

    Athens police sources identified the intruder as Cornelius Horan, who has been barred from practicing as a priest for the past decade. He once published a book called "A Glorious New World Very Soon To Come" that predicted the world was about to end.

    The attacker had a piece of paper attached to his back bearing the message: "The Grand Prix Priest Israel Fulfillment of Prophecy Says the Bible."

    In July 2003, Horan, in a costume similar to Sunday's, ran onto the track in the middle of the British Grand Prix and stayed there for more than 20 seconds, forcing Formula One racers traveling at more than 200 mph to swerve around him. He was carrying a sign that said: "Read the Bible - the Bible is always right."

    British authorities said Horan also attempted a protest on Wimbledon's Center Court during a rain break, and tried to disrupt cricket and rugby matches.

    On Sunday, Horan jumped from the crowd, ran across the street and grabbed de Lima. A policeman following the leader on a bicycle jumped off and helped free the Brazilian.

    De Lima, whose lead had been slowly shrinking, was able to get back into the race. But he lost several seconds as a result of the attack, and eventually was overtaken by Stefano Baldini of Italy and Meb Keflezighi of the United States. De Lima finished third.

    When the incident occurred, dozens of flag-waving Brazilian fans at the stadium that marked the marathon's end were watching the front-runners on a giant screen. They suddenly went silent and the huge crowd gasped.

    The police sources said Horan arrived in Athens just before dawn Sunday aboard a British Airways flight.

    Horan was to be taken to a prosecutor on Monday, the sources said. It was unclear if he would be charged or remanded for psychiatric evaluation.

    On Aug. 16, a Canadian man wearing tights and a tutu jumped into the Olympic diving pool after an event. He was convicted of interrupting the games and sentenced to five months in prison, although he remains free pending appeal.