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Grief-stricken Kenyans mourn Nicholas Bett

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Nicholas Bett celebrates after clinching the 400m Hurdles title at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in 2015.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – Nicholas Bett jumped his final hurdle on earth early Wednesday morning when his young life was cut short in a car crush in Lessos, Nandi County on his way home after returning to the country from the African Senior Athletics Championship in Asaba, Nigeria on Monday.

The news sent chills, shock and sadness across the divide with athletics fans, Kenyans and national leaders, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto mourned the death of the 28-year old.

President Kenyatta sent a message of condolence midday Wednesday, mourning the athlete who was also part of the National Police Service.

“Deeply saddened by the death of former 400m hurdles World Champion Nicholas Bett who died today in a tragic road accident. Bett earned the country great honours in his outstanding victories. My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family, relatives and friends,” the Head of State tweeted.

His deputy William Ruto said;

“The passing on of World Champion Nicholas Bett is tragic and a big loss to his family, friends, Kenya and the global athletics fraternity. He made history in 2015 by being the first Kenyan gold medalist over a short distance in Beijing, China,” the deputy President noted.

Athletes, especially those who were with him in Asaba were equally shocked.

Julius Yego who won the world javelin title in Beijing was a close friend with Harun and were neighbors in their Nairobi homes.

“My roommate in Beijing when we won gold together and it was just the other day we were in Nigeria now you no more! Life can be very short RIP bro condolences to his family. Pole sana (deep condolences) Aaron Koech be strong bro,” Yego posted on his Facebook page.

Those who personally knew him described him as soft spoken, hard worker with a polite sense of humor.

“I can’t believe it. Bett was a great athlete who had gone through so much in his career and was so eager to get back to the top. I have known Bett since his started his career and this is a huge blow. In my entire career as a journalist, nothing has hit me as hard as this,” BBC Africa Sports Journalist Michelle Katami told Capital Sport.

Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) vice president and People Daily Journalist James Magayi who covered Bett’s last competition in Asaba also weighed in.

“He was working hard to get back on top and it was unfortunate he limped out injured in Asaba when he was on course to win alongside his brother. It is a sad day for the Athletics fraternity and we pray for the family at this difficult time,” Magayi noted.

Same sentiments were also shared by renowned Sports Journalist Evelynn Watta who was with Bett throughout the flight from Asaba to Nairobi.

“I am still in shock because this is someone I really conversed with as we came back from Asaba. He was struggling to get back to shape from injury and was looking forward to it. This is literally gone too soon because I think he did not live to his full potential,” Watta said.

Former 400m Hurdles World Champion Nicholas Bett (right) arrives at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday August 6, 2018 from the African Senior Athletics Championship in Asaba, Nigeria. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“He was often misunderstood because of his quiet nature, but deep down he was humble and down to earth,” added Watta.

Kenyans took to social media to mourn the loss, especially noting Bett’s young life. He leaves behind a set of twins.

Capital Group Limited Chairman Chris Kirubi expressed his sadness upon learning the news saying;

“My sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Nicholas Bett, the 2015 World 400m hurdles champion. You made Kenya proud and you will be missed by the entire nation and the Athletics fraternity. We have lost a champion. #RIPNicholasBett.”

“What a dark morning. One of the soft-spoken and most affable athletes I’ve ever known, #NicholasBett has just jumped his last hurdle in life and gone to heaven. Don’t want to believe it, I’m numb. REST WITH THE ANGELS,” Former Capital Sports Editor Mutwiri Mutuota said.

Bett thrust through the limelight four years ago when his tall figure emerged off the home stretch at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, China to storm to the Gold medal of the 400m Hurdles race as Kenya went on to finish top of the world.

From then on, Bett struggled with injury and couldn’t defend his title last year in London. He had just returned to full fledged action at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia where he got to the final.

He won a place in team Kenya after winning both the Police and National Championships but couldn’t break the pain barrier to finish the final in Asaba, having also run the semis with the niggling injury.

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