Wanjiru’s 1st anniversary bereft of fanfare
His widow Trizah Njeri led family, relatives, friends and scores of athletes in marking the occasion in a gathering where his mother, Anne Wanjiru was conspicuously absent in a sombre celebration that was in sharp contrast with the publicity blitz that greeted the stunning news of his death 12-months ago.
“To this day, we are still affected by his death and I’m grateful to all for being here today to celebrate this day.
“I’m urge you to keep praying and whatever you earn, invest it wisely since you cannot tell the future and those who make it should assist the upcoming runners,” Njeri said while addressing the runners at Nyahururu Stadium.
Earlier on, athletes drawn from Nyahururu held a brief prayer meeting led by Pastor Charles Maina of the Nakuru’s Faith and Miracle Church and observed a moment of silence in memory of the fallen hero.
His close friend and fellow runner, Daniel Gatheru, who was by his side when he breathed his last at Nyahururu District Hospital following a reported fall from the balcony of his Muthaiga Estate home, said the deep sense of loss had not lessened one year on.
“You can all bear witness that since Kamau passed on, we have been having problems. He used to assist some with school fees with their children, he would give others fare to travel to races abroad and offer his vehicles for transport to competitions.
“He put our region on the map. In races such as London Marathon, we would still be celebrating his success since every time, we only hear of Eldoret based runners excelling but Kamau held his own. We will never forget him,” he added.
Later, the group proceeded to his resting place at Gatimu village where wreathes were laid on his concrete grave.
In Nairobi, no formal commemoration was held but some of his Kenya Police teammates training for their national championships spared a moment to remember the first athlete from his nation to win the marathon medal at the Olympics.
Commonwealth and Africa 3000m steeplechase champion, Richard Mateelong remembers Wanjiru as a brave and determined runner who was ready to conquer the world and will always be an inspiration to upcoming athletes.
“As we recall the exploits of this humble ever smiling gentleman, we still grieve his loss, the huge gap he left is surely been felt but one of the best ways to honour his memory is for our marathon team to bring home the marathon title in London,” the Kenya Police instructor expressed.
“Loosing such a young promising life is a situation that should not be allowed to be repeated and athletes should be guided on the best way to keep up with the pressures that come with success at the world stage,” he added.
“It’s really sad when we recall how we lost this great athlete but his legacy still remains fresh in our minds and I believe that our marathoners could defend his title at the Olympics and keep his accomplishment alive,” added 2006 Commonwealth 5000m champion Augustine Choge.
“The fact that he could run even without a pacesetter at world events proves that he was born a fighter,” Sammy Tangui, the designated pace maker for world men 800m record holder, David Rudisha maintained.
Athletics Kenya boss Isaiah Kiplagat revealed efforts to have educational sessions for athletes were still in the pipeline.
“We had set a symposium for elite and upcoming runners last year but it didn’t materialise. We intend to focus on fundamental issues affecting our athletes including how to manage earnings, their image, health, family and how their respective agents operate since many are in the dark over this particular issue,” said Kiplagat.
He praised the efforts of the fallen hero and rued the fact that the country will miss his services in London later as he announced that the federation plans to organise an event in honour of the 2009 London Marathon champion.
“We wanted to organize a half or full marathon particularly in Nyahururu in memory of the late Wanjiru but can’t move forward with the logistics until all the outstanding issues are resolved between all stakeholders,” he added.
Kiplagat believes that the team selected to represent the country in the forthcoming Olympics that includes double world champion, Abel Kirui, London winner, Wilson Kipsang and Chicago titleholder, Moses Mosop will keep the memory of Wanjiru alive by defending the title.
Wanjiru passed on due to fatal injuries suffered in a reported fall from the balcony of his Muthaiga Estate home in Nyahururu in circumstances that are yet to be resolved with police yet to determine whether his death was suicide, homicide or accidental.
He is credited with changing the rules of marathon running with his fearless front running in the ultimate race with his triumph in Beijing where the clock stopped at 2:06:32 for the championship record largely hailed as the greatest individual performance over the punishing 42km event.
Since the demise of the twice World Marathon Majors winner, his compatriots have stepped up to push the frontiers of the event even further with four Kenyans male marathoners dipping under 2:04 last year alone.