A Nigerian runner who had been training with his nation’s Olympic team was struck by a car and killed Thursday night in southwestern Sydney.
Hyginus Anugo, 22, a promising 200- and 400-meter runner who had participated in the World Junior Championships in 1996 in Sydney, was hit as he crossed a street shortly after 9 p.m. (6 a.m. EDT), the official Olympic News Service said.
“(We) are both shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death,” said Nigerian team chief Fidelis Kibri Kaigama. In a statement, he added that Aguna was a “runner of national standing who was well-known to all of us and a close friend of many members of our team.”
Sydney’s Channel Seven television said Anugo was killed while running to catch a bus, but the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Anugo was killed while heading back to his room at Southern Cross Bible College.
‘Very Quiet Person’
New South Wales police confirmed a man had been struck by a car and killed, but would not release any additional details until relatives had been notified. Kaigama’s statement did not provide details of the accident.
“He was a very quiet person, an easy-going person,” Nigerian coach Brown Ebewele told Kyodo. “When the news got to us, everybody was shocked.”
The Nigerian flag and the Olympic flag in the athletes’ village were lowered to half-staff today.
John Coates, president of the Australian Olympic Committee, said Anugo did not have Olympic accreditation and was not staying at the Olympic athletes’ village.
Anugo was with the team in Adelaide, in south-central Australia, where final selections for relay squads were made. Anugo was not picked after failing to finish in the top six in a recent team trial.
Kaigama said Aguna had been due to return to Nigeria with other non-selected team members after the training camp finished.
“But, of his own volition, he proceeded to Sydney, where it is understood he was scheduled to catch a return flight to Nigeria on Sept. 4,” the team chief said. “For reasons known only to himself, he did not catch that flight and remained in Sydney.”
Nigeria’s high commissioner in Australia, Rufai Soule, flew to Sydney from Canberra to get information from authorities about the accident.
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch sent a condolence note today to the Nigerian team.
“The president expressed his sympathy and expressed the sympathy of the IOC to the national Olympic committee of Nigeria and the family of the athlete who was killed tragically last night,” said IOC director-general Francois Carrard.
New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said his thoughts were with Anugo’s teammates.
“We grieve with them as they do about the death of someone drawn to Sydney by this huge event, the Olympics,” Carr said. “We think of all the time that he put in his training and all that he may have expected to achieve in Sydney.”