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Armed robbery pushes Australia to call for extra Rio security

Two members of Australia's Paralympic team were robbed at gunpoint while training in Rio.The team's leader has demanded the city beef up safety measures ahead of the August games.

Australia's Olympic Committee insisted Brazil step up security in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday after a Paralympic athlete and a team official were robbed at gunpoint. Sailor Liesl Tesch and physiotherapist Sarah Ross were training for the Games over the weekend when they were set upon by two men, one of whom was brandishing a pistol.

"We're demanding that the level of security forces, which number about 100,000, is reviewed and we are also asking that they are deployed earlier prior to Games time, especially around training and competition venues," said Kitty Chiller (pictured above), Australia's Chef de Mission for the Rio Olympics, at a press conference in Sydney.

She said she had submitted a written request for more safety personnel to the Games organizing committee as well as the city's mayor.

"It's not an isolated incident,"

she added. "It's got to a point now that steps and measures are taken to ensure that all our team members who go to Rio for the Olympic Games next month are safe."

Chiller said Australia would be hiring private security for its team.

'Disturbing' act of violence

Athlete Tesch described the incident as "extremely concerning and disturbing," to Australian television, especially considering that it happened in the middle of the day not very far from official training facilities.

Tesch and Ross were taking a bike ride near their Flamengo Beach hotel early Sunday when they were confronted by the two men. Tesch said she was shoved to the ground before she was robbed.

"It was absolutely horrific, I can see it clear as day in my own head. We are both shaken, but physically we're both okay," said Tesch.

Security is a major concern ahead of the Rio Olympics, which begin on August 5, followed by the Paralympics on September 7. The cash-strapped city had to

declare a state of financial emergency

on Friday as it struggled to prepare for the games.

This meant a 30 percent reduction in the security budget, which is doubly worrying as the city has seen a rise in homicides and assaults in the past few months.

es/kms (AP, dpa)

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