Former Comrades Marathon champion Nick Bester is recovering in hospital after being brutally attacked while running on a mountain near his Pretoria North home at the weekend.
Bester’s former rival and close friend, nine-time Comrades winner Bruce Fordyce, said yesterday that he had spoken to Bester moments before he was taken into an ICU hospital ward on Sunday. Fordyce confirmed that he had typed a WhatsApp message regarding the incident, which went viral on Sunday.
Fordyce said Bester was training for the BrightRock Battle of the Sports 200km fundraising endurance race that will see 12 cricket, rugby, soccer and running heroes take on each other, as well as expedition leader Erik Vermeulen, in the desert salt pans of the Verneukpan in the Northern Cape.
The event aims to raise funds to fight the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa. Among the contestants are Fordyce, Bester, Lance Klusener, Jonty Rhodes and John Smit.
Bester, known for winning the Comrades Marathon in 1991, is also an Ironman triathlete.
“Nick was attacked and severely beaten up by thugs while out training. His injuries are very serious. Broken ribs, broken jaw, bad cuts in his head,” Fordyce said in the message.
“I have spoken to him. He was going for X-rays to check for internal injuries. Was beaten with rocks, dragged up a hill and beaten again with rocks, and tied up and left for dead,” he said.
Bester’s son, Shaun-Nick Bester, relayed the attack on Instagram and told The Mercury yesterday that his dad’s condition seemed to have improved.
“My father was busy training on Sunday morning on the Magalies Mountain close to his house, and got attacked from behind and hit with a rock over the head,” Bester posted.
“They continued to hit him, breaking three ribs and his cheek bone, and he has a lot of trauma to the head and cuts all over his body. They took off his clothes and tied him up and left him on the mountain. He managed to escape down the mountain by sliding on his back until he was right against someone’s fence,” Bester posted.
Bester said his father had also sustained cuts to his head and the bone above his eye had been broken, X-rays had revealed.
“I did not speak to him since this morning. I tried to go to the hospital, but due to the pandemic I was not allowed to go inside. My mom was allowed to see him for 10 minutes at lunchtime, and she said he was looking a little better than yesterday, but I think the pain killers are helping,” he said.
Bester said his dad would have to withdraw from the BrightRock Battle team that Fordyce was captaining.
Fordyce said it would be sad if Bester had to be substituted due to the attack.
“We were very close rivals in the eighties and nineties, but we have become good friends. I would imagine, without being arrogant, that with the running of 200km the runners had the best chance of winning,” he said.