Sammy Wanjiru, who won the 2008 Olympic gold medal and the last two Chicago Marathons, died late Sunday after falling from a balcony at his home in Nyahururu, Kenya. He was 24 years old.
Police offer conflicting reports on Wanjiru’s death. Eric Kiraithe, a national police spokesman, told the Associated Press that Wanjiru committed suicide. Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere also said initial reports indicated Wanjiru killed himself, but a local police officer offered a different account.
The regional police chief for the area, Jaspher Ombati, told Reuters his death was likely an accident involving a love triangle. Ombati said the athlete’s wife, Triza Njeri, came home to find Wanjiru in bed with another woman. She reportedly locked the couple in the bedroom and ran outside. Police say that’s when Wanjiru jumped from the balcony, possibly to try and keep his wife from leaving the compound.
Wanjiru had a history of domestic problems. Last December, he was charged with wounding his security guard with a rifle and threatening to kill his wife and maid. The runner denied all charges and was released on bail.
He became the youngest runner to win four major marathons. Along with the Olympics, he won a marathon in London in 2009 and in Chicago in 2009 and 2010, running the fastest time ever recorded in a marathon in the United States.
“Sammy Wanjiru was an accomplished runner who will be remembered for winning the first Olympic gold medal for Kenya in marathon and setting a new Olympic record in the process," the International Olympic Committee said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with his family and friends."