Samuel Wanjiru, Olympic Marathon Champion, Dies at 24

May 16, 2011
Outside Magazine

Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru, 24, died early this morning after falling from a balcony at his home in Nyahururu, Kenya. According to Reuters, Wanjiru's wife, Triza Njeri, had caught him in bed with another woman.

“His death is a tragedy, but I’m 100 per cent sure it’s not suicide," Wanjiru’s agent, Italian Federico Rosa, told CNN. The balcony was on the second floor of his house. 

Amby Burfoot, an editor at large for Runners World, suggests Wanjiru’s mark on the sport is indelible (Check out his excellent essay here). Burfoot credits the Kenyan phenom with two of the gutsiest running performances in the history of marathons. The first was his gold-medal winning finish in Beijing’s 2008 Olympics, where in stifling conditions Wanjiru turned in a 2:06:32 time—almost three minutes faster than the previous Olympic record. He was 21 at the time.

Since then, Wanjiru’s life and performance has been volatile. His 2010 marathon season was plagued by stomach bugs and knee problems. By the time he arrived at the Chicago Marathon in October even his managers admitted he wasn’t in great shape. Yet he pulled off a surprising victory over Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede by sprinting the final 800 yards and finishing at 2:06:24.

"It was the greatest marathon race I have ever seen, and the biggest surprise," said Rosa. 

Then in December Wanjiru was arrested in Kenya for making death threats against his wife and possessing an AK-47. He was involved in car accident in January that led to him dropping out of this year’s London Marathon. 

Watch this CNN interview with Wanjiru’s agent, Rosa, for more details. 

--Kyle Dickman 


Filed To: Athletes, Running

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