Tragedy behind Wanjiru’s smile

What the late Samuel Wanjiru. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • ‘Doodloper’, or death runner in English, is a book about the Olympic champion’s unique talent, adultery, poverty, witchcraft, humiliation and the world of top sport

Next Tuesday, the sports world will mark the first anniversary of Olympic marathon champion Samuel Kamau Wanjiru’s death.

And to commemorate the star’s passing, Dutch journalist Frits Conijn on Tuesday launched a book that seeks to answer many questions that surrounded the star’s mysterious death following a night fall from the balcony of his Nyahururu home.

Unique talent

The 288-page book titled Doodloper – Het tragische einde van Olympisch marathonkampioen Samuel Wanjiru), which translates to “Death Runner - The tragic end of Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru,” has been published by Tirion Uitgevers of Herculesplein in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The Dutch version hit the shelves on Tuesday with the launch of the English version expected soon.

Doodloper is a story about unique talent, adultery, poverty, witchcraft, humiliation and the world of top sport.

“I knew Samuel Wanjiru as someone with a perpetual smile on his face,” top athletics manager Jos Hermens of The Netherlands said in his foreward.

“This story clarifies the tragedy that was hiding behind it,” the Global Sports Communications head adds.

“Kenya was plunged in deep mourning. Samuel Wanjiru, the Olympic marathon winner of 2008 fell from his balcony and died at an early age,” Conijn, who co-authored the book with Tanzania-born Simon Maziku, now a Dutch citizen, told the Daily Nation on Wednesday.

“There were rumours of suicide and murder in international media but a thorough investigation after his untimely death was not carried out.

Until today, speculations about his fatal fall continue.”

International fame

Conijn and Maziku spoke to people from Wanjiru’s inner circle.

In their book, they describe how the super athlete is confronted with the downsides of his international fame.

How he ran on a road with a dead end.

In collaboration with a Dutch pathologist, the authors found evidence of a cover up and their final conclusions are staggering.

Wanjiru remains an intriguing character, a man who gave the marathon a whole new dimension.

“He was someone who brought Kenyan tribes together, but ironically the dark circumstances around his death drove them apart again,” Conijn said on Wednesday.

“Some claim his death was due to an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances, while others say it was brutal murder.”

The English version of Conijn and Maziku’s book is titled Running on empty and also has a photos section.

Conijn and Maziku spent months travelling between Kenya, Japan and Europe to dig into the mysteries of Wanjiru’s life.

“I’m not a sports journalist, but the intrigues of Wanjiru’s life made me develop interest into the young man’s life and death,” Amsterdam-based Conijn said.

“He was special in many ways and although I was never close to him, I felt like I knew him so well.”


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