21-gun salute for fallen World athletics champion Bett

Kenyan hurdler remembered at moving ceremony

There was a loud send-off on Thursday, as Kenya’s World champion hurdler Nicholas Bett was buried at his home in Eldoret.

Bett was given a 21-gun salute by the Kenya Police, mourning the loss of a colleague and a nation's hero.

The policeman was the only Kenyan to have won a sprint gold at a world championship.

The 28-year-old died in a car accident as he was driving home, just two days after competing at the African Athletics championships in Nigeria.

KEY FIGURE IN KENYAN ATHLETICS

Dozens of Kenyan Olympic medallists, led by Ezekiel Kemboi and Julius Yego were among thousands who thronged his home in Simat for his funeral.

“He was a best friend and always encouraged me and others. After winning the hurdles in Beijing, he came and gave me his running shorts to wear so that I could also win. He always wanted all of us to win,” said Yego who also stunned the world with the Javelin gold at the same event at the Beijing National Stadium.

The country's deputy president William Ruto led the mourners, saying on social media “We lay to rest a champion, whose talent and class shone through the world stage. He was a kind soul, considerate, unassuming and generous."

"We have lost not just a person from this county but a national athlete and an international citizen,” - William Ruto, Kenya's deputy president.

"We lay to rest a champion, whose talent and class shone through the world stage. Nicholas Bett's exploits on the track won him admiration, recognition and a place on the history books."

BETT'S SURPRISE WIN

Bett who was nicknamed ‘straight outta lane 9’, surprised many by winning the 400m hurdles title in 2015.

It was the only sprints medal at the Worlds for a nation mostly known for its middle and long-distance runners.

Kenya's Nicholas Bett running in lane nine wins the 400m hurdles finals at the 2015 World championships in Beiing.
Kenya's Nicholas Bett running in lane nine wins the 400m hurdles finals at the 2015 World championships in Beiing.Kenya's Nicholas Bett running in lane nine wins the 400m hurdles finals at the 2015 World championships in Beiing.

Even more significant was that Bett, who was competing at his first major event, managed to shrug off a foot injury that weighed heavily on him for the last four years.

The injury returned to haunt his African dream as he was forced to pull out of the final in Nigeria, a disappointing end to a troubled season.

The father of two sons was looking to improve on the bronze medals from the 2014 African championships in the 400 hurdles and 4×400-meter relay.

The Rio 2016 Olympian also finished eighth at the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast last April.

Nicholas Bett reacts after winning Gold at the 2015 World championships in Beijing.
Nicholas Bett reacts after winning Gold at the 2015 World championships in Beijing.Nicholas Bett reacts after winning Gold at the 2015 World championships in Beijing.

His twin brother Aaron Koech is also a 400m hurdler, and was part of Kenya’s 4 by 400m relay team that won gold at the 2018 African championships.

In Bett’s honour Athletics Kenya will put a special sprints camp at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret.

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