Marathon champ Wanjiru dies

2011-05-16 08:01

Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru died after allegedly jumping from a balcony shortly after a domestic dispute involving his wife and another woman, police said today. He was 24.

The incident happened late yesterday at his home in the town of Nyahururu, in the Rift Valley, said John Mbijiwe, the police chief in Kenya’s Central Province.
“The fact of the matter is that Wanjiru committed suicide,” said national police spokesperson Eric Kiraithe.

Wanjiru’s 11pm jump came shortly after an argument with his wife, said a police official who was not authorised to release the information and asked for anonymity.

Wanjiru, who had allegedly been drinking, was with another woman in his home and was discovered by his wife, the official said.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wanjiru became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal in the marathon, finishing in an Olympic-record 2 hours, 6 minutes, 32 seconds.

Wanjiru had a history of domestic problems. Last December, he was charged with wounding his security guard with a rifle and threatening to kill his wife and maid. The runner denied all charges and was released on bail.

Wanjiru made an early start to his career, moving to Japan aged 15 where he attended school in Sendai – a city hard hit by this year’s tsunami – where he won some major cross-country events while also competing in track competitions.

Moving to Europe to advance his promising career, Wanjiru won the Rotterdam Half Marathon in 2005 in a world-record time.

He twice improved on that record before stepping up to the marathon in 2007, back in Japan, winning the Fukuoka Marathon.

The following year he finished second in the prestigious London Marathon, and then claimed the biggest prize of his career by taking Olympic gold in Beijing.

Wanjiru became the youngest runner to win four major marathons. In addition to the Olympics, he won in London in 2009 and in Chicago in 2009 and 2010, in the process running the fastest time recorded in a marathon in the United States.

American marathon runner Ryan Hall posted on Twitter: “Incredibly sad news about Sammy. I am shocked and saddened.”

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