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Body of Kenyan athlete Cynthia Wanjiku who died in Japan detained over Sh1.3m bill

Family, friends and colleagues of a 20-year-old Kenyan middle-distance runner who died in Japan earlier this month are appealing to the government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for help to repatriate her body for burial.

Cynthia Wanjiku Mbaire from Njoro, Nakuru County died in Japan on April 14 and her body is being detained at a morgue in Tenrei Kaikan over an outstanding medical bill, according to reports.

Wanjiku, who specialized in 1,500m and 3,000 m races in Japan, had been ailing since last year but succumbed a week ago.

Victor Wachira, a Nyahururu-based athletics coach, said they are required to pay an equivalent of Sh1.3 million to have the body of Wanjiku released.

He said they have been given two weeks to pick it up or else it will be disposed off by the Japanese government.

“We have lost one of our athletes who died in Japan. We have had logistical issues because the overall bill is Sh1.3 million. We have raised some amount through various athletes and coaches but the amount is too low,” Wachira said at Nyahururu Stadium on Tuesday.

The athletes are calling on well-wishers and the Kenyan government to come in and help in shipping home the body of the young athlete.

“She had been admitted to the hospital for over a week before she succumbed. We are calling on the government to help us raise the amount and bring her body back before the two weeks’ deadline set by the government of Japan elapses failure to which they shall be forced to bury her there,” he added.

Wanjiku, who was a member of the Hitachi Women’s Corporate team under coach Satoru Kitamura, was best known for her 8:49.72 record in the 2019 South Kyushu High School Championships at age 16.

That year, the deceased won both the 1500m and 3000m at the National High School Championships. She also bagged the 1500m title at the 2021 East Japan Corporate Championships, her first season with Hitachi.

Her best performance following that was a 9:01.66 for 3000 m in April 2022.

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