FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, file photo, Kenya’s Nicholas Bett celebrates after winning the men’s 400m hurdles final at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

Former world hurdles champion Bett killed in car crash at 28

Bett was killed in the car crash early Wednesday morning near Kenya’s high-altitude training region of Eldoret.

Nicholas Bett, a Kenyan runner who won the 2015 world championship title in the 400-meter hurdles, was killed in an early-morning car crash Wednesday in the country’s famed high-altitude training region, police and his coach said. He was 28.

Bett had only just returned home this week from the African championships in Nigeria.

Nandi county police commander Patrick Wambani said Bett was killed in the crash on the road between Eldoret and Kapsabet, two of Kenya’s best-known distance-running training towns in the Rift Valley region. He was born and lived in the region.

Bett was driving alone, Wambani said.

Bett’s SUV hit bumps in a road and rolled, landing on its roof in a ditch, his coach, Vincent Mumo, told The Associated Press. Mumo said the accident happened at about 6 a.m.

“I’m out of words,” Mumo said. “We thank god for his life.”

Mumo said Bett’s twin brother, Aron Koech, who is also an athlete, was “beyond grief.”

Bett was also the father of 2-year-old twin boys.

His gold in the 400 hurdles at the 2015 world championships in Beijing was a breakthrough victory for Kenya, normally a powerhouse only in middle- and long-distance events.

The triumph from Lane 8 was a big surprise as he became the first Kenyan to win a major title in the event. It signalled that Kenya was ready to challenge in the shorter distances, too.

Related: B.C. basketball player dies after collapsing during high school game

Related: Kelowna swim community in mourning with death of former coach

It was also a significant personal achievement for Bett, who was carrying a foot injury and ran through the pain. Since 2014, the injury had become a permanent part of his career and he learned to deal with it.

His victory in Beijing was especially popular in Kenya, where Bett was known as a humble athlete from a simple, rural background, like many of Kenya’s distance-running champions.

The difference was Bett wasn’t a natural. Instead, he had to persevere to be successful in a punishing event and one that isn’t popular in Kenya.

He may have been born in the Rift Valley, the heartland of Kenyan running, but he was initially a volleyball player before turning to track and field. He won the high jump at the national junior trials in 2010 and also tried the 110-meter hurdles before finally settling on the 400 hurdles.

Even then, it didn’t come easy. He wasn’t the best hurdler and recalled missing “about five hurdles” in the world championship semifinals before sneaking through to the final as one of the fastest losers.

He won the final in a Kenyan national record of 47.79 seconds.

“I was more shocked to run a time I never thought I would make in my life,” he said in an interview for his IAAF profile in 2016. “From there, my life changed. I have been able to do things for my family like building (a) house, buying a tractor.”

Julius Yego, who produced another major surprise at the same world championships to win the javelin gold for Kenya, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday: “Dark morning, horrifying news! Can’t believe it’s real but go rest with the angels Nicholas Bett!”

“I’m shocked beyond words!” Yego added. “My roommate in Beijing when we won gold together and it was just the other day we were in Nigeria.”

Bett also won bronze medals at the African championships in 2014 in the 400 hurdles and 4×400-meter relay.

“Bett earned the country great honours in his outstanding victories,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote on his official Twitter page. “My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family, relatives and friends.”

The IAAF said it was “deeply saddened and shocked” by Bett’s death. Athletics Kenya said it sent condolences to Bett’s family and would help organize the funeral.

“We are really mourning the loss,” Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei said. “He has done a lot for this country … he is still a young boy and we will really miss him.”

Bett’s twin brother was part of the Kenyan 4×400 team that won gold at last week’s African championships in Asaba, Nigeria.

Bett didn’t run on that team. He did make the final of the 400 hurdles at the championships but didn’t win a medal.

___

Imray reported from Somerset West, South Africa.

___

Mutwiri Mutuota And Gerald Imray, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

RCMP to review actions at Wet’suwet’en pipeline protest camps

Senior Mountie says he hopes protests will be peaceful following deal with hereditary chiefs

‘Tripod’ delays access to Unist’ot’en camp

Social media rumours of cultural significance quashed, meaning police “exclusion zones” should end.

Hereditary chiefs negotiate injunction agreement

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs abide by interim injunction, but gate stays up. Still opposed.

College of New Caledonia wants public’s input on budget

A public consultation will be held Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. at Vanderhoof Campus

Giant rotating ice disk forms in Maine river

Ice disk that is roughly 100 yards wide has formed in the Presumpscot River

Liberal candidate steps aside after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

SUV wedged on top of car in B.C. mall parking lot has customers confused

The accident occurred Tuesday, no injuries were reported

Huawei founder thanks inmates, Canadian justice system for treating daughter well

Ren Zhengfei said he believes there will be a just conclusion to the case of his daughter, Meng Wanzhou

May government faces no-confidence vote after Brexit defeat

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would stay put in her leadership role

Razor burn: Gillette ad stirs online uproar

A Gillette ad for men invoking the #MeToo movement is sparking intense online backlash

Feds poised to bolster RCMP accountability with external committee

Long-anticipated move is the latest attempt at rebuilding the force following years of sagging morale

Canada needs a digital ID system, bankers association says

The Department of Finance last week officially launched its public consultation on the merits of open banking

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Most Read