The Life of Olympic Star Samuel Wanjiru: More Money More Problems

  • Samuel Wanjiru
    Olympic Gold medallist Samuel Kamau Wanjiru crossing the tape (file images)
  • In 2019, Kenyan Marathon star Eliud Kipchoge made history as the first human being to run a full marathon under 2 hours in Vienna, Austria. Against the clock, Eliud successfully ran a Nike sponsored race dubbed Ineos 1:59, with a beautiful tagline - 'No Human Is Limited'.

    Well, that dream didn't start with Eliud.

    The credit goes to the late star athlete, Samuel Wanjiru, 2008 Beijing Olympics Marathon Gold medallist.

    Samuel Wanjiru
    Olympic star Samuel Wanjiru crossing the finish at 2008 Beijing Olympics

    Samuel Wanjiru was born on 10th Nov 1986, to a poor, single-parent household in an obscure village in Nyahururu. He took his mother's name as his surname - a brave gesture in a largely hedonistic cultural background. 

    The running bug bit early, and, the teenager landed a high school athletic sponsorship to Japan on which he strutted over Junior athletic circuits like a colossus.

    Wanjiru's woes began after he made his marathon debut at Fukuoka Marathon, on 2nd December 2007 - and the teen athlete celebrity gave life to the famous lines by American rapper, Notorious B.I.G - More Money, More Problems.

    The athlete's best year was 2008 - he raked in millions of dollars - starting a spiral of events that led to his death.

    He started the year 2008 with a Ksh30 million (US$300,000) after winning the Zayed International Half Marathon.

    In February 2008, Wanjiru flattened a talented lineup to win the Granollers Half Marathon, clinched the Ksh40 million (US$400,000) prize money. It's on the post-race interview that the diminutive athlete uttered the prophetic ambition:

    "In five years' time, I feel capable of clocking a sub 2 hours time for the marathon. "

    Eliud Kipchoge made Wanjiru's dream come true in 2019 after he pulled the famous Ineos 1:59 Challenge.

    In October 2009, Wanjiru won both Chicago Marathon and London Marathon. Oh, wait, in the Chicago Marathon - at time of 2:05:41 - he set a new course record for the city and the fastest marathon time ever run in the United States.

    Those two wins pushed Wanjiru to the top of the World Marathon Majors rankings for 2009, earning him a jackpot of Ksh50 million (US$500,000).

    As the money started flowing, so did his personal life take a tumble. Wanjiru moved back to Kenya, then shifted to Iten - the holy high altitude cradle of global athletics.

    As it happens with sudden money at a young age, Wanjiru suddenly became a global celebrity.

    From a spectator's angle, the young celebrity had a mentorship vacuum and fell into the wrong path. He would discover alcohol and made a name as a generous buyer in entertainment spots.

    Samuel Wanjiru
    The late athlete Samuel Wanjiru with wife Triza Njeri on their wedding day (file images)

    At this point, Wanjiru had separated from his first wife - Mary Wacera, and married his high school sweetheart - Teresia Njeri - who lived in Nyahururu where he would visit on weekends. 

    On one clubbing spree, he met a lady who became his lover, a busty , light-skinned lady - Jane Nduta. At this point the athlete was estranged with his second wife, Teresia - she was living at her parent's home.

    On Sunday 15th May 2011, Wanjiru travelled to Nyahururu. At a pub, he shared a few drinks with friends, then picked up his lover Nduta. He took her to his family home, around midnight.

    Either by coincidence or intent, Teresia decided to go meet him her husband. She drove into the compound in the company of a family friend and business associate.

    The second wife stormed her bedroom and found a strange lady - stark naked - in her matrimonial bed - with her husband. The star athlete was stone drunk, and dead asleep.

    Teresia, the mother to Wanjiru's two kids, downplays this encounter, saying she exchanged a few words with Nduta. However, at the public inquest, details of a scuffle with her husband's naked lover emerged.

    This scuffle would nudge the athlete awake, and Teresia sprinted out of the bedroom into the hallway - but locked the bedroom door.

    Teresia exited the house - and made a call to the police, her husband's colleagues. He was then attached to CID headquarters.

    Wanjiru came into the bedroom's balcony, which overlooked his driveway. He shouted at his security guard manning the gate to get his keys from Teresia. Of course, she wouldn't hand them over. The police hadn't arrived yet.

    The athlete climbed the balcony's concrete barrier and tumbled down headfirst into the cabro-lined driveway - hitting his head. 

    On a dark gloomy night on 15th May, Olympic Gold medallist Samuel Wanjiru's immense talent was nipped in the bud at the peak of his career.

    He was a few weeks to his 25th birthday.

    While Wanjiru's case was closed off as a suicide by a public inquest that followed, there is a lot of loose ends that raise questions.

    The star marathoner's mother, Hannah Wanjiru, is uncandid about the whole matter. She maintains that her son's death was not a suicide - but, an elaborate murder planned and later covered up by the police - in pursuit of his millions.

    In an interview by journalist Dennis Onsarigo for his Case Files feature on KTN, Wanjiru's mother claims crooked police officers disappeared with Wanjiru's safe - which she reveals had millions.

    In this case, the athlete had been arrested over allegations of being in possession of an illegal arm, an AK 47. The case was later dropped, but the safe was never recovered.

    Samuel Wanjiru
    Athlete Samuel Wanjiru's mother Hannah Wanjiru in a past media interview (file images)

    The post morterm report showed athlete Wanjiru had blunt-force injuries on the back of his head inconsistent with injuries from a 14ft fall.

    The forensic team also did a shoddy job in the examination of the scene. For instance, the athlete's and his lover's clothes on the night of his death disappeared.

    Tragically, the questions may never be answered.

    Was there someone else in the house who attacked the athlete?

    In October 2020, Samuel Wanjiru's widow, Teresia, remarried - becoming the third wife to former Mungiki leader and politician Maina Njenga. 

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