Kenyan world record holder Agnes Tirop has been found stabbed to death at her home in the western town of Iten, with police treating her husband as a suspect.
The two-time World Athletics Championships bronze medallist, who finished fourth in the Olympic 5,000m final two months ago, was 25.
Last month, Tirop set the world record for a women’s only 10km road race in Germany.
A criminal investigation is now underway into her death, with police saying her husband has gone missing.
On Wednesday, crime scene investigators were at the house of Tirop, who police say was reported missing by her father on Tuesday night.
“When [police] got in the house, they found Tirop on the bed and there was a pool of blood on the floor,” Tom Makori, head of police for the area, said.
“They saw she had been stabbed in the neck, which led us to believe it was a knife wound, and we believe that is what caused her death.
“Her husband is still at large, and preliminary investigations tell us her husband is a suspect because he cannot be found. Police are trying to find her husband so he can explain what happened to Tirop.”
Makori added that police believe that CCTV in the house may be able to help with their investigation.
Tirop was also found dead with a stab wound to her stomach, sources have told the BBC.
“Athletics Kenya are distraught to learn about the untimely death of World 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Tirop,” the country’s athletics body said in a statement.
“We are still working to unearth more details surrounding her demise. Kenya has lost a jewel who was one of the fastest-rising athletics giants on the international stage, thanks to her eye-catching performances on the track.”
Tirop’s ascent to global success
Tirop’s first taste of international success saw her win the world junior 5,000m bronze in 2012 and 2014, as well as a world junior cross country silver in 2013.
Two years later, during a rapid ascent, she won the senior World Cross Country championships in China, becoming the second-youngest woman after Zola Budd to claim gold.
At the 2020 Olympic Games in August, Tirop finished just outside the medal places for the women’s 5,000m, trailing Ethiopia’s bronze medallist Gudaf Tsegay by 0.75 seconds.
“It is unsettling, utterly unfortunate and very sad that we’ve lost a young and promising athlete who, at a young age of 25 years, had brought our country so much glory,” Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said.
“It is even more painful that Agnes, a Kenyan hero by all measures, painfully lost her young life through a criminal act perpetuated by selfish and cowardly people.”
“I urge our law enforcement agencies to track down and apprehend the criminals responsible for the killing of Agnes so that they can face the full force of the law,” the head of state added.
‘A terrible blow to entire athletics community’
As well as her 10,000m bronze medals at both the 2017 and 2019 World Athletics Championships, Tirop also impressed off the track.
In September, she set a time of 30 minutes and one second in Herzogenaurach, Germany, as she took 28 seconds off the old 10km road race record set in 2002.
Former double Olympic champion and World Athletics president Sebastian Coe led tributes from the sport, describing Tirop as “one of the world’s best female distance runners over the past six years”.
He added: “Athletics has lost one of its brightest young stars in the most tragic circumstances. This is a terrible blow to the entire athletics community, but especially to her family, her friends and Athletics Kenya and I send them all our most heartfelt condolences.”
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach called her “a young and bright talent,” who “gave hope and inspiration to so many people,” while the athlete’s sponsor Adidas said Tirop’s “legacy will forever live on in our memory”.
Michel Boeting, who has acted as a sports agent for many of Kenya’s leading runners, tweeted: “We will never again see that majestic running style. We will never again see you raising your arms in celebration.
“But the worst is we will never see your beautiful smile again. You were Royal. It was a pleasure knowing you.”