The French athletics championships were marked this weekend by the incredible aggression of Wilfried Happio, before his title in the 400m hurdles. According to our information, the individual who hit the hurdler is the brother of another athlete involved in the competition.
It’s a pretty incredible story, which has shaken up the French athletics championships. Saturday evening, hurdler Wilfried Happio was violently attacked by another man during the warm-up. An event which did not prevent him from winning the national title a few tens of minutes later, and of which we are beginning to know the course, like – no doubt – the origins.
We rewind. 6:40-6:55 p.m., this Saturday in Caen: twenty minutes before the start of the 400m hurdles final, Wilfried Happio is warming up in an annex stadium, provided for this purpose. A few moments later, he must go to the Hélitas stadium, where the competition is taking place. But suddenly, a man bursts in. He has access to this place, has not entered in an abnormal way. He hits the athlete, before being quickly restrained and notably surrounded by Happio’s coach, Olivier Vallaeys. City services are on site. They quickly contact the municipal police services which arrest the individual. The latter is then handed over to the national police. Wilfried Happio is then in shock but wants to compete. His coach and his relatives are shocked. Decision is made to let him line up anyway.
Bone micro-fractures in the face
At 7:15 p.m., he therefore presents himself on the starting line of the 400m hurdles, his left eye bandaged and covered by a blindfold. At first, no one paid too much attention to it. His race is historic for him: Happio beat his personal best in 48’57”, won the title and made the minima for the World Championships in Eugene (United States) this summer. The 23-year-old athlete then goes into the mixed zone, facing the journalists. His nose is still bleeding. “I don’t want to dwell on it, the case is in progress, competent people are taking care of it, he says briefly. To talk about the race, with one eye it’s more complicated . But the feelings were good.”
Quickly, the rumor of an attack swells, confirmed by his trainer with AFP. “There was a big incident during the warm-up. Someone jumped on him and hit him, slips Olivier Vallaeys. A guy who came from nowhere asked him if it was him Wilfried Happio and threw himself on him. I surrounded him. (…) Wilfried is fine. But I’m speechless, it’s pure aggression. It’s scandalous. These are savage methods .”
Wilfried Happio “is fine”, but he still has a swollen face. He was therefore taken to the hospital in the evening as a precaution. He was diagnosed with bone micro-fractures in his face.
A story between Happio and another athlete at the origin of the aggression?
The night passes, questions remain. This Sunday, the French filed a complaint. The French Athletics Federation and the city of Caen do the same. The man arrested on Saturday is implicated for violence with temporary incapacity for work.
As of this Sunday morning, RMC Sport announced that this man is a relative (the brother) of an acquaintance of Wilfried Happio. According to our information, the acquaintance in question could be an athlete present this Sunday in competition at the French athletics championships. There would have been, some time ago, a “story” between Happio and this athlete. AFP for its part evokes a “dispute”.
Wilfried Happio reappeared this Sunday. In the middle of the afternoon, he climbs on the podium to receive his medal after his victory. He has a smile but wears a black cap and above all large dark glasses, which do not allow his injuries to be distinguished. Leaving the podium, he is surrounded by his clan, relatives and members of the communication team. Some journalists are watching him but Wilfried Happio will not speak. The president of the French Athletics Federation, André Giraud, speaks for his part. At the end of the competitions, he congratulates himself on the organization, before being questioned about the security of the event. “Security was assured, as it was assured in all the championships, he retorts. There was a regrettable event, we will draw the consequences, of course. There were no faults at the level of the Federation, at the voluntary level.” And to add: “You know, we live in a particular society. I would say that every weekend, on the football fields, there are attacks worse than this.”
The question now is whether Wilfried Happio will be ready for the Worlds in less than three weeks. “It’s in the hands of the medical, evacuates the director of high performance at the FFA, Romain Barras. He is with the minima, champion of France and therefore priority to be selected. We hope he is still in better shape and with better performance in Eugene.” In the meantime, the police investigation will continue.