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Kenya's Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru dies in balcony fall

Twenty-four-year-old Wanjiru was the youngest runner to win four major marathons and recorded the fastest-ever marathon time in the US.

Sammy Wanjiru winning gold for the men's marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Sammy Wanjiru winning gold for the men's marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Image: AP Photo/David J. Phillip/file

KENYAN OLYMPIC marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru has died after falling from a balcony shortly after a domestic dispute involving his wife and another woman, police in Kenya said today. He was 24.

Wanjiru died late Sunday after jumping from a balcony at his home in the town of Nyahururu, in the Rift Valley, said John Mbijiwe, the police chief in Kenya’s Central Province.

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

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

In the 2008 Beijing Games, 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 at age 15 to Japan, where he attended school in Sendai — a city hard hit by this year’s tsunami — and won several 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 full marathon in 2007 with a win in Japan’s 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. Along with the Olympics, he won in London in 2009 and in Chicago in 2009 and 2010 — running the fastest ever 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.”

- AP

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