Decorated runner Agnes Jebet Tirop was found stabbed to death Wednesday at her home in Kenya, according to police in that country’s Elgeyo Marakwet County.
Police chief Tom Makori said a search was on for Tirop’s husband, who is considered a suspect in the case and was at large, according to The Associated Press. Makori said family members of Tirop’s husband told police he called them in a state of extreme agitation and asked for forgiveness related to an unspecified act.
According to Reuters, Makori added that it appeared to police officers who arrived at the scene after Tirop’s father had reported her missing that Tirop had been stabbed in the neck with a knife.
Tirop, 25, was a two-time World Championships bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters, and she finished fourth in the 5,000 meters at the Tokyo Olympics in August. In September, she set a record time of 30 minutes 1 second in a women-only 10-kilometer road race in Germany.
Praising Tirop as a “Kenyan hero,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that she “painfully lost her young life through a criminal act perpetuated by selfish and cowardly people.”
“I urge our law enforcement agencies led by the National Police Service to track down and apprehend the criminals responsible for the killing of Agnes,” he added, “so that they can face the full force of the law.”
In a separate statement, Athletics Kenya said: “Kenya has lost a jewel who was one of the fastest-rising athletics giants on the international stage.”
Tirop lived and trained in a region in Kenya that boasts of being the cradle of champions because of the famed distance runners it has produced. She first gained major notice in 2015, when at age 19 she became the second-youngest woman to win a world cross-country title, following South Africa’s Zola Budd in 1985.
Tirop also notched wins and other podium showings at Diamond League events between 2017 and 2019, and she was a two-time bronze medalist at the Under-20 World Championships.
“Athletics has lost one of its brightest young stars in the most tragic circumstances,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said in a statement.
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, described Tirop as “a young and bright talent” whose performance in Tokyo “gave hope and inspiration to so many people.”
Michel Boeting, an agent who has represented many of Kenya’s best runners, remembered her “majestic running style,” tweeting that “the worst is we will never see your beautiful smile again. You were Royal. It was a pleasure knowing you.”