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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cluculz Lake fire leads to death of occupant

RCMP said mobile home was engulfed in fire when they arrived on scene

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

BC Green Party leader visits Wet’suwet’en camps at heart of pipeline conflict

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada and First Nations

Premier Horgan announces business plan approval for new hospital in Fort St. James

The new hospital in the district is aimed to be open to patients by 2024

Horgan cancels event in Fraser Lake due to security concerns, says mayor

The premier will still be visiting the district, but the location and day will not be made public

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

B.C. teacher suspended for poking student in stomach, pulling another’s ponytail

Teacher also swore in classroom, used Facebook to contact students

Larry Walker Jr. and Sr. keeping expectations low for hall-of-fame induction

Walker needs 75 percent of votes in order to be inducted into Cooperstown

Gene Simmons to launch new Titans of Rock music festival in Grand Forks

The rock legend has partnered with Chuck Varabioff to run Titans of Rock in Grand Forks

Most Read