Kenya's Agnes Tirop: 'She was humble, focussed and smiling'

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Tributes pour in for Agnes Tirop of Kenya, who was found dead Wednesday. Her former athletics captain Julius Yego is also leading the charge.

Police named her husband as the suspect after she was found fatally stabbed at her home.

Yego was the team captain for Tirop, who placed fourth in the Olympic 5,000m final this year. She won bronze at 10,000m at 2019 World Athletics Championships.

Yego said that Yego was an "amazing young girl" who worked hard to become a world-class athlete. Yego spoke on BBC World Service's Newsday program.

She wanted to be the best, and she only broke the world record of the 10km a few weeks back. Her remarkable career was still being built, but someone decided that the end of her story could not be told.

Tirop was a successful junior, winning bronze in the 5,000m at the world championships 2012 and 2014. She also won the World Cross Country championships 2015 as a senior.

Tirop was awarded bronze at the World Athletics Championships 2017 and 2019. He also finished 0.75 seconds short of the medal positions at the Tokyo Games two month ago.

She set a new world record last month of 30 minutes, one second in Germany for the 10km race.

Athletics Kenya, the country's governing body, suspended all athletics competitions for two weeks on Thursday in a gesture of respect for Tirop’s death.

"We have just lost a tremendous talent. Yego said that she was a strong woman who was committed to her work.

When asked how he remembered, the Olympic javelin medallist said: "A young lady who was peaceful, humble, and always smiling."

He said that you would not know when she was angry or sad, and added that she was extremely "focused on her training" and her career.

"We had a hard day yesterday. It is still shocking. It is Agnes' sad news, if you look on TV or social media. We're still gathering ourselves."

Hellen Obiri (right), beat Agnes Tirop, her compatriot in the Tokyo Olympics 5,000m Final

"Such a kind soul"

Eunice Sum, an 800m World Champion in 2013, was a close friend to Tirop and saw her body on Wednesday when she visited her home.

External-link, like many Kenyans, she appealed to police for help in locating those responsible.

Sum said that Agnes was a cheerful, smiling lady. She was also a talented runner, even in road races.

"Seeing her dead body was so painful for us. I pray Agnes is convicted. Rest in Peace Agnes.

Tirop had high hopes for Hellen Obiri (one of Tirop's competitors on the track).

The 31-year old won Olympic 5,000m gold in Tokyo two months back, beating Tirop, but she was expecting her compatriot to continue her distance running career as she progresses to road running.

Obiri said that Agnes' death was shocking to him. "I have raced in so many races with Agnes - most recently in Tokyo."

"I was hoping Agnes would replace me (as the next trackstar), but it was an untimely end for her. May she rest in everlasting peace.

Messages of condolence and tribute have been sent from all corners of the world, but also from closer to home.

"We are shocked to learn of the sudden death our fellow athlete Tirop Agnes," Halima Nakayi (the 800m world champion from Uganda) posted on social media. "I send my condolences for her family, friends, and the Kenyan athletics team."

Winnie Nanyondo, a fellow Ugandan middle-distance runner, said that it was difficult to say goodbye to her ever smiling face. "I cannot believe you are gone - you were such a friend. It is so difficult."

Reaction worldwide

Both Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics and Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee's counterpart, spoke Wednesday about Tirop's loss.

Coe, a former Olympic champion, described Tirop "as one of the best female distance runners in the world over the past six year."

He said, "Athletics lost one of its brightest young stars under the most tragic circumstances." This is a devastating blow to the whole athletics community, but particularly to her family, friends, and Athletics Kenya.

"I send them our deepest condolences."

In a tweet on Twitter, Bach also praised Tirop as an example.

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