Kenya’s championships win soured as former world champion Nicholas Bett passes at 28

Nicholas Bett had just returned from the African Athletics Championships in Nigeria when he died, aged 28, in Nandi, north-west Kenya following a tragic car crash on 8 August. According to the country’s ministry of sports and heritage, Bett, died only two days after arriving in the country with the Kenyan team that topped the medal standings at the championships that ended on Sunday in Asaba.

A two-time African bronze medallist, Bett became the first Kenyan to win a world gold at a distance shorter than 800m in 2015, making history in China. Athletics Kenya confirmed Bett’s death on Twitter, while Kenyan sports minister Rashid Echesa tweeted his condolences to the Bett family. 

His twin brother Haron Koech (centre), twin brother of the late Nicholas Bett who is also a hurdler and who occasionally partnered with Bett in numerous world events including the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, overwhelmed by grief as the body was taken to Eldoret Hospital mortuary in Uasin Gishu County. Photo: Jared Nyataya

The world athletics governing body IAAF, organisers of the recently concluded African Athletics Championships in Nigeria and the South African Athletics Federation are among organisations and individuals that mourned the demise of former world hurdles champion Nicholas Bett.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) expressed shock and sadness upon learning of the 400 metres hurdler’s death. “The IAAF is deeply saddened and shocked to hear that Kenya’s 2015 world 400m hurdles champion Nicholas Bett, 28, died in a car accident. RIP,” the IAAF tweeted.

In a statement issued by Olukayode Thomas, the head of media and publicity for the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, the championships’ local organising committee chairman, Solomon Ogba, said the sudden demise of Bett was a big blow not just to Kenya but to the rest of Africa.

“We were deeply touched when we heard the news of Bett’s death on Wednesday,” Ogba said. “Coming at a time when the athletics family in Kenya are still celebrating their heroic performance in Asaba, it is painful that the former world champion is no longer around to savour this magic moment with the rest of his colleagues.”