Nairobi, August 8: Former 400 metres hurdles world champion Nicholas Bett has died in a road accident at the age of 28.
The Kenyan, crowned world champion in Beijing three years ago, passed away following a crash in Nandi County.
Bett made history when he became the first athlete from his country to win a world gold at a distance shorter than 800m in 2015.
Rashid Echesa, Kenya's Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage Cabinet Secretary, tweeted: "Former 400m hurdles World Champion Nicholas Bett has died in a road accident in Nandi County.
The passing on of World Champion Nicholas Bett is tragic and a big loss to his family, friends, Kenya and the global athletics fraternity. He made history in 2015 by being the first Kenyan gold medallist over a short distance in Beijing, China. pic.twitter.com/YNuon2iQCo— William Samoei Ruto (@WilliamsRuto) August 8, 2018
"On behalf of the sporting fraternity and @moscakenya I convey my sincerest condolences to his family. Rest in peace."
Kenya Athletics also paid tribute to Bett, tweeting: "We regret to learn of the sudden demise of one of our top athletes, the 2015 400m Hurdles World Champion #NicholasKiplagatBett who represented Kenya in the just concluded Africa Championships.
"Our condolences to his family and the entire athletics fraternity @moscakenya @iaaforg."
RIP NICHOLAS BETT !! SHINE YOUR WAY pic.twitter.com/QNWQR9MIKy— LelmettAmon (@gambler_kiptoo) August 8, 2018
The 28-year-old Bett, the father of two-year-old twins, surprised the field in Beijing by taking gold. He has since struggled to replicate that form.
Bett, whose twin brother Aron Koech is also an international 400m hurdler, was disqualified in his heat at the 2016 Rio Olympics after hitting a hurdle and was unable to defend his world title in London in 2017 due to injury.
While Kenya topped the table in last week's African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, Bett was forced to pull out of his race, again due to injury.
"It is very sad because I talked to him yesterday. He had gone to Nairobi Hospital to see a doctor because of the injury he picked up in Asaba," said Barnaba Korir, an official with Athletics Kenya (AK).
My sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Nicholas Bett, the 2015 World 400m hurdles champion. You made 🇰🇪Kenya proud and you will be missed by the entire nation and the Athletics fraternity. We have lost a champion. #RIPNicholasBett pic.twitter.com/7LOcEjXP5r— Chris Kirubi (@CKirubi) August 8, 2018
"This morning we got the reports (of his death) and, as AK, we are saddened beyond words."
Track and field's governing body, the IAAF, said it was "deeply saddened and shocked" by the news.
(With inputs from OPTA and PTI)