Record-breaking Kenyan distance runner Agnes Tirop was found dead Wednesday with stab wounds to her stomach in a suspected homicide, athletics officials said.
Police said they were on the hunt for her husband over the incident at Tirop’s home in the high-altitude training hub of Iten in western Kenya.
Tirop, 25, was a fast-rising athlete – a double world 10,000m bronze medallist and 2015 world cross county champion who also finished fourth in the 5,000m at the Tokyo Olympics this year.
Only last month, she smashed the women-only 10km world record at the Road to Records Event in Germany, with a time of 30:01, slicing 28 seconds off the previous record, Athletics Kenya said.
Tirop also made history in 2015 when she became the second-youngest ever gold medallist in the women’s cross country championships after Zola Budd.
“Kenya has lost a jewel who was one of the fastest rising athletics giants on the international stage, thanks to her eye-catching performances on the track,” Athletics Kenya said in a statement.
“We are still working to unearth more details about her demise.”
Keiyo North police commander Tom Makori told AFP that Tirop’s husband Emmanuel Rotich was a “man of interest” in the case and was the subject of a police hunt.
“He can tell us what happened,” Makori said. “The suspect had made a call to Tirop’s parents saying that he’d committed something wrong. So we believe he knows what happened.”
‘A Kenyan hero’
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta paid tribute to the young athlete and urged the police to track down those behind her death.
“It is unsettling, utterly unfortunate and very sad that we’ve lost a young and promising athlete who, at a young age of 25 years, she had brought our country so much glory through her exploits on the global athletics stage,” he said in a statement.
“It is even more painful that Agnes, a Kenyan hero by all measures, painfully lost her young life through a criminal act perpetuated by selfish and cowardly people,” he said.
The US embassy in Nairobi also expressed its condolences over the loss of Tirop, describing her as “a figure of hope for women in sports”.
On Saturday, another Kenyan long-distance athlete Hosea Mwok Macharinyang, a member of the country’s record-breaking world cross country team, died of what Kenyan athletics officials said was suicide.
Macharinyang, 35, was found in his home in West Pokot in western Kenya.
“He was such a brilliant athlete, committed to the sport where he competed for Kenya for many years in both cross country and the 5,000m and 10,000m races,” Jackson Pkemoi, the West Pokot representative of Athletics Kenya, told AFP.
Macharinyang made a record eight appearances, and won three consecutive titles for Kenya in the World Cross Country Championships from 2006 to 2008.
Kenya is the most successful nation in the cross country championships, having won 49 team and 27 individual titles.