Olympic marathon champion Wanjiru buried in Kenya

Updated: June 11, 2011, 2:49 PM ET
Associated Press

NYAHURURU, Kenya -- Thousands of people braved heavy rain and lengthy security checks to attend the funeral of Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru on Saturday following weeks of legal wrangling amid an ongoing investigation into his death.

Wanjiru's funeral at a stadium in his hometown of Nyahururu, in Kenya's Rift Valley, was watched over by scores of police as his mother had threatened to disrupt the ceremony after accusing his wife of murdering him to get his property.

The 24-year-old Wanjiru died May 15 after falling from a balcony at his apartment in Nyahururu following a domestic dispute. He had been found by his wife, Triza Njeri, with another woman at their home.

Wanjiru's mother, Hannah, was not present at the funeral. She obtained an initial court order preventing his burial, but it was overruled by a judge on Friday.

The first Kenyan to win gold in the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and one of distance running's brightest young stars, Wanjiru was given a 21-gun salute as his coffin was lowered into a grave at his farm.

His funeral was attended by a number of Kenya's top athletes, including 3,000 meter world record-holder Daniel Komen, former women's marathon world champion Catherine Ndereba and former 5,000 world champion Benjamin Limo.

His death is still being investigated by Kenyan authorities after conflicting police reports over whether it was a suicide or an accident.

Jane Nduta said after his wife locked them in the bedroom, Wanjiru told her he was going to the balcony to try and call his wife so that she would return with the key. Nduta had said that Wanjiru had been drinking, and he may have jumped or fallen to his death.

David Beckford, a race director for the London Marathon, told mourners at the funeral that Wanjiru was one of the greatest marathon runners of his time despite his young age. Beckford said Wanjiru could be mentioned alongside Ethiopian distance great Haile Gebrselassie.

Wanjiru won five of his seven marathons and was the youngest runner to win four "major" marathons.

He won the 2007 Fukuoka Marathon on his marathon debut and claimed Kenya's first Olympic marathon title a year later in an Olympic record time, breaking the 24-year-old mark.

But, he had a troubled personal life and a history of domestic problems.

Last December, he was charged with wounding his security guard with a rifle and threatening to kill his wife and maid. The runner denied all charges and was released on bail.

Following Wanjiru's death, three men claimed to be his father and two other women said they were married to him.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index