Sammy Wanjiru dead

By Tom Odula
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16 AP - Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru died early on Monday after jumping from a balcony, police said.

John Mbijiwe, the police chief in Kenya’s Central Province, said initial information indicated 24-year-old Wanjiru died after jumping from a balcony at his Rift Valley home, but the death is subject to further investigation.

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

He denied all charges and was released on bail.

Wanjiru was the youngest runner to win four major marathons.

He finished first in London in 2009 and the 2008 Olympics and won twice in Chicago.

He was forced to pull out of April’s London Marathon because of a right knee injury.

Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru plunged to his death from the first-floor balcony of his home after the athlete’s wife found him in bed with another woman, police say.

Regional police chief Jaspher Ombati said that Wanjiru’s wife, Triza Njeri, surprised the couple when she came home late on Sunday, locked them in the bedroom and ran outside.

“In a rage, Samuel Kamau Wanjiru jumped from the first floor of the house and he was badly injured. When he was rushed to the hospital the doctors tried to resuscitate him but unfortunately he passed on,” said Ombati.

Wanjiru, 24, won Kenya’s first men’s marathon gold in Beijing in 2008 and had been regarded as one of the greatest current talents in an east African country long renowned for its distance runners.

He also won the prestigious London and Chicago marathons, but his private life was troubled.

Ombati said Wanjiru returned home with the woman after a drinking spree. Nyahururu residents said Wanjiru had taken to heavy drinking of late and was stressed by personal problems.

Last December, Wanjiru was charged with threatening to kill Njeri with an AK-47 assault rife – the accusation was later withdrawn as his wife said they were reconciled – and he rolled his car in January after swerving to avoid an oncoming truck.

Wanjiru was still due to appear in court later this month for the illegal possession of the weapon.

Athletics Kenya Secretary General David Okeyo said Wanjiru’s manager had been planning to take him away from Kenya this month for therapy because the gun charge was taking a heavy toll.


Video footage on Monday showed police looking at blood stains on the ground below the balcony of Wanjiru’s house in Nyahururu, a town in the Rift Valley some 150 km (94 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi.

Njeri and Wanjiru’s female companion recorded statements at the police station in Nyahururu and were later released.

“Wanjiru’s death is not only a loss to his family and friends but to Kenya as a whole and the entire world athletics fraternity,” Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in a statement.

“As an athletics nation, we looked forward to a sterling performance in the Olympic Games in London next year. Mr Wanjiru was one of our sure bets for gold in the upcoming contest. His death is therefore a big blow to our dreams,” Odinga said.

Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, the world marathon record holder, said he was “totally shocked” by the news.

“Of course, one wonders if we, as an athletics family, could have avoided this tragedy. My thoughts are with his family and all his friends and colleagues,” Gebrselassie said on his Twitter account.

Kenya’s Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka urged the country’s sports management institutions to embark on a programme to prepare sports stars to handle fame and fortune gracefully.

Wanjiru’s talent was spotted when he won a cross country selection trial in Kenya and he moved to Japan in 2002 as a young man to attend high school.

The runner defied the heat of Beijing in 2008 to triumph in an Olympic record time of two hours, six minutes and 32 seconds at the games held in China.

Another Ethiopian, the Olympic and world 5,000 and 10,000 metres champion Kenenisa Bekele, said he had hoped to race against Wanjiru when he stepped up to the marathon.

“I am so sorry for his family and friends to lose this great athlete and person. I looked up to him and saw him as a great marathon athlete,” Bekele said in a statement.

Sammy Wanjiru, Marathon Champion, Is Dead at 24
New York Times
Published: May 16, 2011

Sammy Wanjiru, who set a blistering pace to shatter the 24-year-old Olympic record in the marathon, becoming the youngest winner of the event, died on Sunday in Nyahururu, Kenya. He was 24.

Mystery Remains in Death of Marathon Champion (May 17, 2011)

His death was reported by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the world governing body for track and field. News reports from Kenya quoted the police saying that Wanjiru had jumped from the balcony of his home after his wife, Triza Njeri, arrived to find him with another woman.

The reports said investigators were trying to determine why Wanjiru, who died from internal injuries, had jumped.

He had been going through a troubled period in his life. Last December, he was charged with threatening to kill his wife and with illegal possession of an AK-47 assault rifle. His wife withdrew the attempted-murder charge against him, saying they had reconciled. He was scheduled to appear in court later this month on the firearms charge.

In January, Wanjiru sustained minor injuries from a crash when he swerved to avoid a truck, hit a pothole and rolled his car.

For all of Kenya’s dominance in long-distance running, no Kenyan had won the Olympic marathon until Wanjiru in Beijing in 2008. He became, at 23, the youngest person to win four major marathons: Chicago in 2009 and in 2010 and London in 2009, in addition to the 2008 Olympics.

In 2008, the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races named Wanjiru the world athlete of the year. In 2008-9 and 2009-10, he won the World Marathon Majors, a competition based on combined performance in the world’s major marathons.

Raila Odinga, the prime minister of Kenya, called him one of his country’s “sure bets for gold” at next year’s London Olympics. His death, he said, “is therefore a big blow to our dreams.”

Wanjiru broke the world record for the half-marathon three times, and his time of 58 minutes 33 seconds at the Hague in March 2007 is still the second best, behind the current world record of 58:23, set by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea in 2010.

Wanjiru won the Chicago Marathon in 2009 with a time of 2 hours 5 minutes 41 seconds, a record that still stands. His 2:05:10 in the London Marathon that year, his best marathon time, set a race record that has since been surpassed. His Olympic time was 2:06:32.

But he never achieved his goal of running the marathon in less than two hours. The present world record is 2:03:59 set by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia in Berlin in 2008.

David Bedford, the race director for the London Marathon, said, “He was in my opinion the best marathon runner ever and was likely to break the world marathon record.”

Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, who is survived by a daughter in addition to his wife, grew up in Nyahururu, the rural village where he died. He started running as a means of transportation and impressed people with his speed.

But his family could not afford to send him to training schools for running, and he dropped out of school in the seventh grade. A Japanese scout somehow spotted him, and he ended up going to Japan to complete high school and become a champion runner.

He became known for starting races fast, darting ahead of runners worried about using up their energy too quickly. In the hot, humid conditions in Beijing, he said, “I had to push the pace to tire the other runners.”

Wanjiru won the Olympics in warm-up shoes because he had left his racing shoes in Kenya. He was made an elder of his village when he returned.