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

Many gather to Chip in for Health Care with annual tournament

The annual golf tournamnet in Sylvan Lake was a fundraiser for the AACS

The Hlinka Cup exhibition game a great success for Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake held an exhibition game for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup on Aug. 4

Central Alberta Buccaneers come up short against Monarchs

Bucs’ lose star quarterback in heartbreaking affair

Ponoka man faces 95 theft-related charges

Police recover stolen license plates, mail, tools

Latest Lock it or Lose it campaigns give drivers poor scores

Red Deer RCMP flag visible garage door openers as a temptation to thieves

Pride in the Park takes over Bower Ponds

Central Alberta Pride week continues in Red Deer

Red Deer RCMP seek public assistance to locate Bruce Redhead

There is concern that he may have lost his way

Gun used in Fredericton killings is legal, man had licence

Police Chief Leanne Fitch said the long gun is commonly available for purchase, and is not a prohibited or restricted weapon

Ontario will sell pot online when legalization comes in the fall

There are further plans to have pot in private retail stores in early 2019

Will Idris Elba be the first black James Bond?

The British actor is fueling speculation on Twitter

Cooler weather helps crews fight Southern California wildfire

The Holy Fire has destroyed 16 structures in the Cleveland National Forest

One trillion litres of sewage leaked into lakes and rivers over last five years

Toronto, like the vast majority of Canadian cities, doesn’t monitor real-time data of sewage leaks into lakes, rivers or oceans.

Friendly tone belied desperate acts of Seattle plane thief

Investigators working to find out how an airline employee stole the plane Friday and crashed it after being chased by military jets.

Charlottesville anniversary: Peaceful protests, few arrests

The events held in both Charlottesville and Washington, largely peaceful though tense at times, were part of a day of speeches, vigils and marches marking one year.

Most Read