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

UPDATE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

One in critical condition in incident involving vintage plane

Shag Creek area under evacuation order, area expanded

93 properties are being told to evacuate immediately

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Thousands prepare to leave their homes at a moment’s notice

Northwest B.C. and Cariboo seeing most fire activity in province as crews battle 490 fires

UPDATED: Evacuation alerts due to Chutanli Lake Fire expanded; Shag Creek area put on alert

40 properties on alert due to Chutanli Lake Fire; 17 due to Shag Creek

A look at B.C. wildfire smoke from space

NASA provides a timelapse of smoke covering B.C. from space

Child dies in boating incident in Okanagan

A North Vancouver family was boating on Kalamalka Lake in Vernon when the incident occured

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Province calls for federal aid

More fires have burned in B.C. already this year than did in all of 2017

Kayak in Indian Arm waters off B.C.’s Deep Cove and feast on famous doughnuts

About a half hour drive from Vancouver, Deep Cove is a great kayaking spot for locals and tourists

Child, 4, attacked by cougar near Fernie

The BC Conservation Officer Service said it happened while the family was fishing

Trans Mountain pipeline protesters practise resisting police at Camp Cloud

Last week, a Supreme Court judge granted the City of Burnaby an injunction ordering protesters to remove everything from the site

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

VIDEO: B.C. city to host Western Regional Quidditch Championship in 2019

The fictional game in the Harry Potter series has become popular around the world, with 600 athletes in Canada alone

Most Read