Monday, May 14, 2012

Frustrated Wanjiru wanted to take up Qatari citizenship: ‘The New Yorker’

Samuel Wanjiru breaks the tape in victory during the Olympics marathon race in 2008. Photo/FILE

Samuel Wanjiru breaks the tape in victory during the Olympics marathon race in 2008. Photo/FILE 

By ELIAS MAKORI emakori@ke.nationmedia.com AND DAVID MACHARIA davemash1@gmail.com

Kenya’s Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru was a frustrated man before his death and even considered taking up Qatari citizenship to make more money.

According to this week’s issue of The New Yorker magazine, coinciding with the first anniversary of the star runner’s death, Wanjiru was unsettled and struggling with a drinking problem.

“He went back to Nyahururu, and his drinking intensified. Friends and family did not see him for days at a time. He told (training partner and friend Daniel) Gatheru that he had considered taking Qatari nationality and running for the Gulf state in exchange for a big salary,” Xan Rice writes in her article titled Finish Line.

Interest in NY, Chicago races

Rice adds that after shifting his training base from Nyahururu to Eldoret under Italian coach and sports scientist Claudio Berardelli, things seemed to be looking up for Wanjiru who now showed interest in running in either the Chicago or New York marathons last year.

Rice writes: “...on Monday, May 9th, he (Wanjiru) and Gatheru arrived in Eldoret. For a week, they trained in the morning, relaxed in the afternoon, and were home for dinner and an early night. That Saturday, Gatheru said to Berardelli, “I think Sammy is finding himself again. He wants to run in Chicago or New York.”

As more facts on the star runner’s troubled life and dramatic death continue to emerge, and with today marking one year since the Olympic marathon champion died, all indications are that there will be no elaborate commemoration ceremony.

But Gatheru, who was among the last people to be with Wanjiru, said they would lay a wreath at the grave to mark the anniversary. Gatheru said “several” athletes had agreed to meet in Nyahururu town this morning before proceeding to the site at Gatimu village near the airstrip to pay homage to their departed colleague.

“Several of us have agreed to meet in town and proceed to the grave to lay flowers there,” Gatheru said.

“The day reminds me of the last day I was with him. It appears like yesterday”, Gatheru said on Monday. By late Monday, the family of the late athlete had not indicated whether they had any arrangements to commemorate the day.

Wanjiru surprised many athletics lovers by his astronomical achievements in the sport at very young age.

He was 24 when he died from what police said was a fall from the balcony of the first floor of his house at affluent Muthaiga Estate in Nyahururu town.

Francis Kamau “Master”, who used to coach the Olympic marathon champion when he trained in Nyahururu, said all athletes who will turn up for training on Tuesday at the high altitude Nyahururu Municipal Stadium – the home training ground for the late Wanjiru – will be asked to observe a minute’s silence to mark the day.

Other two coaches who were associated with Wanjiru - Robert Kioni and Francis Kamau of Mfae Club, both who handled the runner in his formative age - said they would not be able to attend the anniversary since they would be out of town.

And with one year gone since the death of the Olympic champion, many athletics lovers pick on the national cross country senior men’s champion and All Africa Games’ 10,000 metres silver medalist, Bedan Karoki, as the most likely to fill Wanjiru’s running void in Nyahururu.

Lucy Kabuu, second at the Dubai Marathon and fifth at the London Marathon, is also touted as capable of returning Nyahururu’s name back onto the world’s running map.

But coaches remain optimistic that Nyahururu will soon bounce back to the limelight.

Kamau “Master” said Karoki has shown great potential of inheriting the Olympic champion’s track exploits.

while another runner Charles Munyeki can be the best marathoner from the area after the deceased. Munyeki finished third when Kamau won his first Chicago marathon.

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