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Seattle Frontrunners' Dean Koga injured in attack at Copenhagen OutGames
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Seattle Frontrunners' Dean Koga injured in attack at Copenhagen OutGames

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

A member of the Seattle Frontrunners, Dean Koga, was injured from shrapnel from an explosive device that shot onto the track during competition at the World OutGames in Copenhagen, Denmark on July 28.

Two athletes from Nashville, Keith Little and Sam Felker, were the first to report the incident in their blog. They said Kogas right hand was injured and he required stitches after fireworks shot at the runner from a Roman Candle exploded right before the start of the men's 4x200 relay at Osterbro Stadium.

Little and Felker said two unknown assailants tossed two explosive devices onto the track. Koga was in the starting position when the explosive detonated. According to eyewitnesses, paramedics treated him at the scene. Little and Felker said the large crowd of athletes and spectators was stunned by what can only be described as a hate crime attack.

The biggest contingent of track athletes competing in OutGames is the Seattle Frontrunners. They said competition resumed because the athletes were determined not to let the incident succeed in stopping the OutGames.

According to reports, Copenhagen police were called to the scene and were searching the premises when two more devices exploded on the track. Shortly thereafter, the police arrested a suspect who was seen fleeing from a nearby church tower where it is believed the attack was launched. Police are still searching for a second suspect.

"The container hit the ground and everyone yelled to run," said Koga, who was in his running lane and then headed for the infield area. "That's when I felt the impact" from the shrapnel that ricocheted off the ground and into the top part of his right hand.

"I felt a sting and there was blood flowing down from the [relay] baton I was holding."

Koga went on to compete in the relay run July 29.

Little and Felker said locals told them Denmark, which is known worldwide for its openness and diversity, has been plagued recently by increased hate crimes and violence aimed at Gays and Lesbians.

Copenhagen police say in order for an attack to be considered a hate crime, it has to be proven that the attacker was motivated by sexual orientation, religion or race. In Copenhagen, hate crimes are considered aggravating circumstances and can result in longer jail terms. According to police, hate crimes against LGBT persons in the city are often committed by men under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and perpetrators are not restricted to any one social group.

NOT OUTGAMES' FIRST ATTACK
The attack comes days after another anti-Gay incident in the city.

Three athletes from England, Sweden and Norway were attacked July 26 by two men, aged 28 and 33, as they returned to their hotel after participating in the opening ceremony for the World OutGames at Town Hill Square. Witnesses say the two men yelled homo pig and then attacked the athletes. The three were treated at a hospital for their injuries and released.

According to Copenhagen Police spokesman Henrik Vedel, the attackers are believed to have been under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The two suspects told police they couldnt remember the attack. Vedel said the two men would remain in custody for the duration of the OutGames, which end next week.

This was an example of what homosexuals around the world risk if they are exposed, said Uffe Elbaek, director of the Copenhagen World OutGames. It shows why an event such as World OutGames is necessary.

He said the police have been working closely with OutGames organizers to prevent hate crimes during the nine-day event. As part of their strategy, he said, stations in the city were issued guidelines about how to handle hate crimes.

On July 28, the Federation of Gay Games issued a statement condemning the attacks.

Our thoughts are with the runner injured by the explosive devices at Track Stadium today and the people who were attacked Sunday, the statement read. We extend our full support to all the participants at the OutGames.

The statement went on to say Copenhagen has a reputation as one of the most LGBT-friendly places on earth and that even there, we are reminded that our community still faces those that would deny us our basic human rights, even the freedom to run in a track meet in safety.

The Federation of Gay Games said, We will not be discouraged; rather, we will run, swim, jump, throw, grapple, volley and perform at events like the Gay Games and OutGames, celebrating our right to love who we want.

The 2009 World OutGames brings together LGBT athletes from around the world to compete in a number of Olympic-style sports competitions over the course of nine days, July 25-August 2. There are tournaments in 38 different sports disciplines and competitors at all skills levels.

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