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Kiptum, Samuel Wanjiru & other Kenyan athletes who died in accidents at their prime

Kenya's sports community is reeling from the devastating loss of marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, whose life was tragically cut short in a fatal road accident along the Kaptagat-Eldoret road on February 12, 2024.

A collage of Kevin Kiptum, Samuel Wanjiru, Nicholas Bett and David Lelei

As the nation mourns the untimely passing of Kevin Kiptum, it's a touching reminder of the fragility of life.

In the annals of Kenyan sports history, Kiptum's name will forever be etched alongside other remarkable talents who met similar tragic fates.

From track and field stars to football icons, the loss of these individuals has left an indelible mark on the sporting landscape of Kenya.

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Samuel Wanjiru, was an Olympic marathon champion. Wanjiru won the gold medal in the men's marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, becoming the first Kenyan to win that event.

However, he died in 2011 at the age of 24 under controversial circumstances after an accident at his home. Wanjiru fell from a balcony at his home in Nyahururu.

In 2023, the inquest into the death of late marathon runner Samuel Wanjiru ruled out murder and suicide as the cause of death.

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Milimani Chief Magistrate Muchemi Wendy concluded that there was no evidence to support allegations of suicide or murder and that his wife, Trizah Njeri, did not push him to his death.

Nicholas Bett was a hurdler who made history by winning the gold medal in the men's 400 meters hurdles at the 2015 World Championships in Athletics held in Beijing, China.

He was the first Kenyan to win a gold medal in a short-distance event at the World Championships.

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Tragically, Bett died in a car accident in August 2018 at the age of 28. He was driving near his home in Nandi County, Kenya, when his car veered off the road and hit a ditch.

He was travelling with 2010 African men’s 5,000m silver medallist Vincent Yator before the incident.

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Kiplagat had nine career victories to his name with personal bests of 14:58 in the 5km, 29:45 (10km), 62:49 half marathon and a 2:15:57 marathon.

David Lelei tragically passed away in a car accident along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, approximately 200km from Nairobi on February 17, 2010.

Lelei achieved notable success in middle-distance running, securing a silver medal in the 1500m at the 1999.

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All African Games and finishing seventh in the same event at the 1999 World Championships.

Additionally, he attained a fourth-place finish in the 800m at the 2001 World Indoor Championships.

During the accident, Lelei was accompanied by Moses Tanui, a renowned athlete who sustained minor injuries.

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In February 2009, Jefferson Siekei lost his life in a tragic morning accident in Nyamira County, Kenya. The accident occurred when the motorcycle he was riding, along with his training companion, collided head-on with a truck. Siekei, a highly promising athlete, had aspirations of representing Kenya in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

David Okeyo, former Secretary General of Athletics Kenya, lamented Siekei's untimely death, highlighting his potential as one of the country's top athletes.

Prior to his passing, Siekei showcased his talent by winning the 2007 Kisii round of the Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series and achieving a commendable 12th position at the national cross country championships in Nairobi the previous year.

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Another example is Agnes Tirop, a promising Kenyan long-distance runner. Tirop won the bronze medal in the women's 10,000 meters at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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Tirop was found stabbed to death at her home in Iten, Kenya. Her death shocked the athletics world, and investigations into the incident are ongoing.

In August 2021, Gilbert Kwemoi, a 29-year-old athlete, tragically passed away after a brief illness. He complained of a headache and was swiftly taken to the hospital by his family. Despite receiving treatment, he sadly did not recover.

Kwemoi had a successful athletic career, notably winning a gold medal in the 1,500m race at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

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Additionally, earlier that year, he achieved another gold medal at the African Youth Championships in Gaborone, Botswana.

Ian Mutuku, a talented Kenyan athlete, passed away under mysterious circumstances at the age of 19.

Mutuku, who had achieved considerable success in athletics, including winning a silver medal at the 2014 Africa Youth Games, collapsed and subsequently died at a hospital in Machakos. Reports indicated that he exhibited swelling all over his body prior to his collapse, suggesting a worsening condition.

His athletic achievements included being crowned the 2013 national youth champion in the 400m event and securing a silver medal at the 2014 youth games. Additionally, Mutuku showcased his prowess on the international stage, finishing fourth in both the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, and the 2014 Olympics Youth Games.

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