Kenya Olympic marathon star Sammy Wanjiru dies in fall

 
Samuel Wanjiru after winning gold in Beijing (August 2008) Samuel Wanjiru broke the Olympic record when he won gold in 2008

The Kenyan Olympic marathon champion, Samuel "Sammy" Wanjiru, has died after falling from a first-floor balcony at his home in the town of Nyahururu.

Police say they are investigating whether it was suicide or an accident.

The 24-year-old won in Beijing in 2008 in an Olympic record time, becoming Kenya's first marathon champion.

Last December, he was charged with threatening to kill his wife, Triza Njeri, assault and the illegal possession of an AK-47 assault rifle.

Mrs Njeri subsequently withdrew her accusations, saying they had reconciled.

However, Wanjiru was due to appear before a court on 23 May on the charge of illegal possession of a firearm.

Samuel Wanjiru

  • 1986: Born in Nyahururu
  • 2002: Moves to Japan, aged 15, after winning cross-country selection
  • 2005: Breaks half-marathon record
  • 2008: Wins Olympic gold in Beijing
  • 2009: Sets course records in London and Chicago marathons
  • 2010: Charged with threatening to kill his wife
Suicide doubted

The BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says the Olympic champion had a stormy relationship with his wife.

National police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said Wanjiru killed himself but Nyahururu police chief Jasper Ombati said it may have been an accident during a confrontation with his wife.

Mr Ombati said the dispute began when Mrs Njeri found Wanjiru with a female friend in their home in the town 150km (93 miles) north-west of Nairobi.

Police are currently questioning both women about the incident.

Wanjiru suffered internal injuries as a result of the fall and was pronounced dead in hospital after attempts to revive him failed.

Our correspondent says some Kenyans believe his domestic problems were linked to his recently acquired wealth from prize money.

His agent, Federico Rosa, told the BBC he was "100% sure" it was not suicide.

Wanjiru spoke to Mr Rosa over the weekend and was "very focused", he said.

"He asked to borrow my car and he was supposed to be back early this morning with my car, so for sure there was nothing to do with suicide. It was just a terrible accident that happened."

Wanjiru's fellow Kenyan marathon star Paul Tergat said the death was "shocking" and "very sad".

"We have lost a very young and talented athlete," he told the BBC.

Wanjiru sets London marathon record (UK only)

As well as becoming the youngest Olympic champion since 1932, Wanjiru also set marathon course records in London and Chicago.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Wanjiru's death was a big blow to Kenya's dreams of Olympic gold in London 2012.

Athletes including Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie have expressed their shock and condolences.

"One wonders if we as an athletics family could have avoided this tragedy," he said on his Twitter feed.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 11.

    I was fortunate enough to have this great athlete sit next to me on a flight back from Kenya soon after he had won the Olympic marathon gold medal. He had no airs and graces and was also keen to give tips to a 4 hour plus marathon runner like myself!. He will be a great loss to the world of long distance running.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 10.

    Sammy is a legend and a true inspiration. He was desperate to be leading and winning, whether it was the Chicago Marathon or running around a field with school kids. He was a lovely guy whi inspired all he met in Bedford during his visit in June 2010.
    God rest his soul.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 8.

    The event is incredibly heartbreaking.Not only has it robbed Kenya of her youthful sportsman but it has robbed the entire sports fraternity of a role model.It should however provide lessons to the rest which by all means must not go unlearnt.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 3.

    This is a very sad story to read. My condolences to family and Kenyan athletics fraternity for such a loss. Surely it is a big blow to Kenya's 2012 olympics gold dreams. But we should use this high profile incident to look back and see if we are doing enough to help address family related issues facing our celebrities (who I believe need such support because of what they are doing to our nations!)

 
 

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