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Grief of the man who ‘brought up’ Olympics hero

Tuesday May 17 2011

Eric Wainaina | Nation Mr Peter Kimani Nelly, the man who says he raised top athlete Wanjiru, at his home in Kiambaa Village in Kiambu on May 17, 2011. He claims he was abandoned by Ms Hanna Wanjiru (the athlete’s mother) when the boy, not his biological child, was seven years old.

Eric Wainaina | Nation Mr Peter Kimani Nelly, the man who says he raised top athlete Wanjiru, at his home in Kiambaa Village in Kiambu on May 17, 2011. He claims he was abandoned by Ms Hanna Wanjiru (the athlete’s mother) when the boy, not his biological child, was seven years old. 

By ERIC WAINAINA

The man who claims he brought up Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru, says he is grieving over the athlete’s death.

Mr Peter Kimani Nelly is yet to come in to terms with the death of Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, the World Olympic marathoner, the boy he says he raised during early childhood.

Mr Kimani who lives a poor life in Kiambaa Village in Kiambu learnt about the tragedy through the radio, news he said affected him since he loved the young man.

“I always wake up very early and on Monday, I was listening to a morning prayer in a vernacular radio station, when I heard the presenters discussing the matter and I was shocked because to me that was unthinkable,” he said.

He claims to have been abandoned by Ms Hanna Wanjiru (Wanjiru’s mother) when Wanjiru was only seven years old and she has never showed any interest in returning to him.

The 68-year-old man lives in a small wooden house on a quarter acre plot, and earns a living from offering manual labour.

He said he took Ms Wanjiru to his house when Wanjiru was only five months old. This was after his first wife had died, he said.

“My wife died, and I started courting Wanjiru’s mother. We met when she used to visit her relatives in the neighbourhood. When the boy named after her was only five months, we started living together in my small house, and life went on. I am the one who raised him,” Mr Kimani told the Nation on Tuesday.

He said they were later blessed with two other children, Simon Njoroge, who also left with his mother and the third one who later died and was buried on his father’s land.

Their marriage turned sour seven years later, after Ms Wanjiru developed an unusual behaviour and decided to return to her parents in Ol Kalou in Nyandarua.

“Everyone around us knew the children and Wanjiru used to play around with his age mates, but after some years, their mother chose to leave me. We never quarrelled, however,” he added.

Later, Ms Wanjiru and her parents would visit on and off, and he always hoped that they would one day return to him, but that stopped immediately Wanjiru became an athlete.

At the age of about 18 years, Wanjiru paid him a visit, since there were differences over what name would be his surname.

Wanjiru wanted to carry his name, but the in-laws disapproved and it’s when he told him to go with his mother’s name so that he could get travelling documents without any delay.

This was the last time he saw Wanjiru or heard from him despite having promised him that he would be visiting occasionally.

“Before Wanjiru went to study in Japan, he visited me and we slept in the same house and we talked a lot.

“He told me how the surname would affect his travelling and I told him to go with his mother’s to avoid any problem since I also have my mother’s as my surname,” he added.

Wanjiru’s younger brother in the company of his grandmother visited him after Wanjiru began racing, and he recalls him asking when their mother would bring the boy back to him, and he answered they would one day.

He said he was willing to go for the burial if he gets fare since he still loves his family, but he is not interested in the wealth of his foster son, which, he said, he knew would cause a lot of problems.

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