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Two-Time Chicago Marathon Winner Dead

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Sammy Wanjiru

Olympic Champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya poses with his trophy near Buckingham Palace after winning the Men’s Elite 2009 London Marathon on April 26, 2008 in London, England. (Credit: Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 05/16/11 8:08 a.m.

NAIROBI, Kenya (CBS) – The two-time defending champion of the Chicago Marathon is dead at the age of 24.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Dave Berner reports, Sammy Wanjiru is believed to have committed suicide. He died after falling from a balcony Sunday night in his hometown of Nyahururu, Kenya.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Dave Berner reports

“The fact of the matter is that Wanjiru committed suicide,” national police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

But another official had a different explanation.

“Wanjiru came home with another woman friend at around 11:30 p.m. and then when his wife came home and found them she inquired who the lady was,” area police chief Jasper Ombati said. “They got into an argument. His wife locked them in the bedroom and ran off.

“He then jumped from the bedroom balcony. He is not here to tell us what he thinking when he jumped. We do not suspect foul play. In our estimation we think he wanted to stop his wife from leaving the compound.”

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wanjiru became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal in the marathon. He finished in an Olympic-record 2 hours, 6 minutes, 32 seconds.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon executive director Carey Pinkowski released a statement on Wanjiru’s death.

“We are truly saddened by the news of the recent death of Sammy Wanjiru,” Pinkowski said in the statement. “He was a magnificent athlete who competed at the highest level here in Chicago, leaving a championship legacy at our event. The sport of marathon running has suffered a tragic loss, and he will truly be missed by all who knew him in Chicago. Our thoughts and prayers are with his young family.”

Wanjiru also recorded the fastest-ever times in a U.S. marathon when he won the 2009 and 2010 Chicago marathons. He also won the London Marathon in 2009, and the Fukoka Marathon in Japan in 2007.

Wanjiru had a history of domestic problems. In December, he was charged with wounding his own security guard with a rifle, and threatening to kill his wife in maid. He denied all charges, and was released on bond.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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