Wanjiru, who died anywhere between 11.30pm and midday of last May 15, earned Kenya its first every Olympic marathon gold medal in Beijing, China, in 2008.
But by the time of his death, he was fighting many wars, some from the domestic front, more worrying was his on and off return to a good physical fitness, which was occasioned by his hedonistic lifestyle which he acquired as a result of mega bucks he earned after his Olympic gold.
Wanjiru commanded appearance fees of anywhere between Sh15 million and Sh20 million after his historic triumph in the Chinese city.
Add this to the World Marathon Majors, which he won two times in a row, each earning him approximately Sh40 million, and you find a recipe for disaster if one was not prepared early for such big money lifestyle.
His death left a nation in deep shock. More shocking were revelations that emerged after he allegedly jumped from his balcony at his Nyahururu’s Muthaiga mansion.
From a humble upbringing, in which the young Wanjiru’s literally struggled to put food on the table, his story was a real rags to riches story.He had a burning ambition to make it big in athletics. Stephen Ndung’u, one of the people who helped him attain his childhood ambition traces the young Wanjiru’s ascent from rags to riches to the day his mother Hannah Wanjiku and his uncle John Mwihia took the young Wanjiru to him in Nyeri where Ndung’u ran an athletics camp for talented athletes from around Mt Kenya region.
“He was very young, 13 years old, and always wanted to become a professional athlete and wanted to follow in the footsteps of great men like John Ngugi, Paul Tergat, Douglas Wakiihuri and Paul Tergat, just to mention a few,” Ndung’u told us this week from his base in London.
“He came from a humble background and did not believe in limitations especially in the athletics field,” said Ndung’u.
“He once told me that he would get to the hall of fame and sure enough, he did. He wanted to compete against people like (Ethiopia’s) Haile Gebrselassie.
“He was one of the most co-operative, obedient and respectful young man who was full of energy and had a great determination to make it big in athletics,” says Ndung’u.
Ndung’u regrets that by the time of his death, Wanjiru was to support his Mt Kenya Talent Development Centre, where he honed his career at a tender age between 1998 and 2000.This account of humility is corroborated by Sport Illustrated in its March issue.