NAIROBI, Kenya (ViaNews) – On Thursday, Kenya is set to lay at rest one of her sporting heroes after another untimely death of an Olympian, a champion, and a history maker.
The careers of this budding athlete had reached the pinnacle and he could only dare to strive for more.
On August 8, 2018, the world woke up to the tragic news of the death of former world 400m hurdles champion Nicholas Bett. He died in a road accident along the Eldoret-Kapsabet Road, Nandi County. The vehicle he was driving hit a bump, veered off the road and overturned. There were no other passengers in the vehicle.
According to the police in Nandi, information given to the press showed that Bett died instantly. Bett had been on recent duty for his country prior to the accident. He was part of Team Kenya that stole the show early in August during the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria.
Bett will be remembered as he was the first Kenyan in history to win an Olympic gold in the 400m hurdles. He achieved this during the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China. His winning time of 47.79 seconds also became the world leading time in that season.
On Wednesday, friends and family gathered at the Eldoret Hospital Mortuary before his burial at Simat, Uasin Gishu County set for Thursday. Members of Kenya’s elite athletics fraternity were present to bid farewell to their departed teammate. They were led by Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, former women’s world champions over 800m Eunice Sum and Janeth Jepkosgei.
The International Association of Athletics Federation also released a statement on regarding the incident on its official website “The IAAF is deeply saddened and shocked to hear that the 2015 world 400m hurdles champion Nicholas Bett died in a road accident. Bett produced one of the biggest surprises of the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 when he took the gold medal,” the statement read.
Kenya is famed for producing some of the best athletes to ever take part in the track and long distance events. His death will be greatly felt in the athletics-mad nation. At, 28, Bett still had a lot to prove in the athletics circle and was working his way back to peak performance. He served as a police officer in Kenya and as such, will be given the force’s distinguished send-off.
On May 15, 2011, Kenya lost another national hero after 2008 Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru was declared dead. The then 25-year-old was an athlete whose star was rising with each event. He won the Summer Olympics in a new record time of 2:06:32 followed by wins in the London Marathon and Chicago Marathon in 2009. In 2010, Wanjiru retained his Chicago Marathon title. At the time of his death, he was one of the top-ranked athletes over the marathon distance.
Wanjiru died after falling off his balcony following what was reported to be a matrimonial row. He suffered internal injuries as a result of the fall and attempts to save his life by doctors failed. Investigations to date remain unresolved on whether he jumped down or was indeed pushed to his death. At 25, Wanjiru had already two world records in the half marathon to his name and had a pedigree that could only be rivalled but not matched.