What you need to know:
- Hoseah Macharinyang committed suicide for unknown reasons on October 9 at his West Pokot home.
- Police said Agnes Tirop’s body had stab wounds in the neck, indicating that she may have been murdered.
Kenyan athletics is reeling from the shock of the sudden deaths of two decorated world distance running champions, Hoseah Mwok Macharinyang and Agnes Jebet Tirop. Just as preparations were being concluded for today’s burial of Macharinyang, 35, a former world 10,000 metres silver medalist and multiple world cross country team gold medalist, more sad news filtered through of Tirop’s demise yesterday.
It’s the nature of the two deaths that show all is not as rosy as we may assume in the lives of our sports stars. While Macharinyang committed suicide for unknown reasons on October 9 at his West Pokot home, police said Tirop’s body had stab wounds in the neck, indicating that she may have been murdered at her home in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet Country.
Tirop, 25, was at the apex of her career, having represented Kenya at the recent Tokyo Olympic Games before shattering the world 10-kilometre road race in Germany only last month.
The two deaths unveil serious mental health issues that our athletes face, but which have never been addressed.
Ten years on, the world is still mourning the 2011 death of promising Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru under equally troubling circumstances. Recently, two of the world’s finest athletes — USA’s multiple gymnastics Olympic champion Simone Biles and Japan’s Grand Slam winning tennis star Naomi Osaka — went publicly about their mental anguish for years camouflaged in medal-winning performances.
They called on fellow athletes to speak out on mental health issues that affect them, rather than suffer in silence.
The issue of mental health in sports hasn’t been addressed at all with national federations guilty of perhaps inadvertently focusing too much on performance without considering other underlying factors like athletes’ family cohesion support systems. Sports stakeholders must seriously address the issue of mental health and athlete ecosystems more closely.