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Sammy Wanjiru's End Remains A Mystery

Sammy Wanjiru, from the May 21, 2012, issue of the New Yorker
Sammy Wanjiru, from the May 21, 2012, issue of the New Yorker

If you're a New Yorker subscriber, you'll hopefully have seen Xan Rice's excellent piece last week on Sammy Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist who met a tragic end a year ago after -- depend on who tells the story -- jumping, falling or being pushed from the second floor of his complex in Nyahururu, Kenya. Rice spent time in Nyahururu talking to those closest to Sammy, and delves into his development as a person, an athlete, a drinker and a philanderer. No one denies that on the night of his death, he had been drinking and he had been caught with another woman by his wife. What resulted in his blunt force death is, however, a mystery.

Rice's narrative exposes an unsurprising pressure that sudden wealth places on athletes from heavily impoverished towns; he writes that Wanjiru, who returned to Kenya after a stint in Japan running for Toyota's club, had a network of beneficiaries in his hometown, and spent a lot of time taking down beers. His training partner claims that hangovers never led him to miss a training session. (The story of the run-up to his famous, incredible performance in Chicago in 2011 leads along these lines.)

If you get a chance, the piece is well worth a read. As for the mystery of his death, stay tuned. Investigations continue, and neither side -- his widow (who claims he jumped) or his mother (who claims he was murdered) appears to be ready to concede.