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Remembering a great athlete: Samuel Kamau Wanjiru

05-16-2012 03:17 BJT

A victory which propelled Kenyan athlete Samuel Kamau Wanjiru to fame as he became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal in the 42km event at the Olympics but as Kenya heads to London to defend this and five other titles Samuel Kamau Wanjiru will be missed. On May 15th 2011 Wanjiru died at his home in Nyahururu. A year on family and friends are yet to fully come to terms with his death.

Haule Gebreselassie, Ethiopian marathoner, said, "I can't believe a great athlete talented and gone too soon."

Triza Hjeri, Wanjiru's widow, said, "I am trying to cope and its hard especially since he left a lot of projects unfinished."

The initial reports into Wanjiru's death were conflicting with police suggesting suicide, homicide and at one point ruling it an accident. According to his mother Ann Wanjiru his son was murdered as she points an accusing finger at the widow Triza Njeri. Njeri on her part claims the late Wanjiru's family is falsely accusing her and this week instructed lawyers to ask the Kenyan Chief justice to probe the cause of death.

The controversy surrounding his death is fuelled further by Wanjiru's lifestyle prior to his death. At 23 years old Wanjiru was estimated to be worth millions of shillings and stories of drinking sprees and family strife circulated in the media for months.

Francis Kamau, Wanjiru's former coach, said, "Kamau had money but lacked peace and that was his biggest undoing."

Daniel Gatheru, Wanjiru's besr friend, said, "He got a lot of money at a young age and this can affect anyone not just young people and he lacked someone to advise him well? "

Wanjiru began his career in Japan where he went to high school and later got employment. After winning gold in Beijing he permanently relocated to Kenya. He is remembered by many as a fierce competitor with a world record in half marathon, two Chicago marathon titles, a London marathon title and an Olympic title among the top honors.

Geoffrey Mutai, Kenyan marathoner, said, "Wanjiru wasn't someone to put himself down he worked hard even during training"
Celestine Karoney, Nyahururu, Kenya, said, “Wanjiru's huge earnings saw him come into money at a very young age and the lifestyle he led thereafter according to some could have led to his death. But to his friends Wanjiru was a charitable man and life has drastically changed ever since he passed on.”

Patrick Muriuki, friend og Wanjiru, said, "It's becoming difficult because he did not leave us at a level where he had reached in athletics and so the help we got from him like offering us transport to go training, even helping us eat well is gone."

His widow Triza Njeri is also struggling to raise her two children in the face of hostility from her in-laws.

Triza Njeri, widow, said, "I cannot afford the life I had when he was alive one of the challenges is people think I have a lot of money and try to tarnish my name. But I must move on for the sake of my children."

Over time Kenyan athletes many who like the late Wanjiru come from poor backgrounds enjoy huge earnings at a younger age and a lesson for many of them after Wanjiru's death was the need for guidance in handling fame and career.

Douglas Wakihuri, former athlete, said, "Athletes must learn discipline and know that fame if not managed well will be the end of them but it is a joined effort among all stakeholders"

As Kenya's marathon team prepares for the Olympics they will be motivated by the fact that they will not only be defending the title but also honour the memory of a fallen colleague.

Celestine Karoney, Nyahururu, Kenya, said, “A year on and friends and family are still trying to come to terms with the death of Samuel Kamau Wanjiru a loss which left his family sharply divided with regard to cause of death. But many choose to over the controversy and instead remember the late Wanjiru as a great athlete a man who made history by becoming Kenya's first marathon champion at the Olympic Games.”

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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