“I AM SAMMY WANJIRU!”

Break Away! Chicago Marathon 2010

It was a long 22-hours back from Oslo to San Diego yesterday, only to hear of the tragic passing of 2008 Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya upon my landing.  Here I was returning from a memorial service for one of the greatest champions in athletics history only to be greeted by news of the premature death of yet another.  And though the passing of Grete Waitz at age 57 to cancer was tragic and all too soon, the news of Wanjiru’s sudden, violent end following a domestic dispute at his home in Kenya at age 24 was, in its own way, even more shocking and senseless.

Details of the incident are still filtering out of Kenya, and I won’t offer any speculation except to suggest that youthful fame and fortune are never simply a single-edged blade carving happiness from a rough-hewn upbringing of need and want.  Over and again we have witnessed the tragic cuts that sudden wealth and corresponding sycophancy can lay open on those ill-prepared to parry their thrusts.  Sammy Wanjiru was a passionate racer, and evidently he carried that passion into his every day dealings to a calamitous, untimely end. Continue reading