The Winner Takes It All

An attack at the World Outgames in Copenhagen last month miraculously left only one person injured -- runner Dean Koga, who just 24 hours later, his hand wrapped in bandages, turned around and won a gold medal.

BY Ross Forman

August 11 2009 12:00 AM ET

Dean Koga knows it could have been worse -- a lot worse, more serious, more pain and suffering, more blood, more people injured, maybe even fatalities. He was, it turns out, the only one injured on July 28 in Copenhagen during a hate-crime attack at the 2009 World Outgames, even though the scene of the crime -- the newly renovated Osterbro Stadium, with its beautiful eight-lane track -- was filled with hundreds of competitors and fans.

Koga, 58, a records supervisor at a law firm in Seattle, was participating in numerous track and field events at the Outgames, just as he had at the 2006 World Outgames in Montreal and at four past Gay Games (Sydney, Amsterdam, Vancouver, and New York City). He is a member of the Seattle Front Runners, the predominantly gay running club that brought more than 30 members to Denmark for the biggest LGBT sporting event of 2009. His partner of 30 years, Curt Johnson, was watching, ready to cheer.

Instead, as Koga was set to run the first leg of the 4x200-meter relay race, tragedy struck: A lone Danish male, age 31, launched aerial attacks into the stadium. Some reports say they were just firecrackers; some say they were a lot more powerful. He ultimately sent three "bombs" into the stadium before he was apprehended; the assailant was prepared to launch up to nine.

"It will be with me for the rest of my life," Koga told The Advocate . "And it will be on the minds of other people too. It is unfortunate that something like that would happen during what was supposed to be a celebration, friendly competition, and a peaceful event. I didn't think [such a hate crime] would ever happen [at an LGBT sporting event], but I guess that's reality in the world we live in. Things like that happen because there are crazy people everywhere. This [attack] shouldn't reflect [negatively] on the people of Copenhagen, because they were wonderful, very nice. It's just unfortunate that you have one person like this, trying to disrupt the event like he did, especially with the intent of what it was."

Advocate.com:Tell me what happened as you prepared in Lane 3 of the staggered-start race?Dean Koga: Well, the fact it was a staggered start was very fortunate, because no one else was in the proximity of the two devices [that went off] except me. [The starter] had just called everyone to their marks, and then immediately there was an explosion. I just thought the starter had misfired the gun because that sometimes happens. When I turned around, I saw the device and could still see the glow where the fuse was. So I started running toward the infield and there was another one in front of me, which exploded, and that's the one that hit my hand.

You were hit running from your starting position into the infield of the track. What if you had instead stayed put? It might have hit me in the face. It might have been worse. The second one landed in front of me. So, had I still been facing forward, the device would have come the direction of my face. I was not sure what was happening. I just heard people say "Run!" There were several people on the sideline who could see the devices fly over [a wall] onto the track; I couldn't.

When it hit your hand, what did you think? I knew that I had been hit because I felt the pain, looked, and saw my hand was swelling up and blood was all over. My first thought was, I wanted to just wrap my hand and still run the relay, but there was too much blood

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