Marathoner Who Fled Ethiopia Is Found Dead in Paris
By Erin Strout, Runners World
December 6, 2017
Zenash Gezmu was a 27-year-old runner from Ethiopia who moved to France six years ago with the hope of one day representing the European country in competition. On Tuesday, she was found dead in her apartment on the outskirts of Paris, according to multiple news reports.
A 28-year-old Eritrean man has been taken into custody by French authorities, according to the Le Parisien website. It’s unclear what Gezmu’s relationship was with the man, who, according to the news report, told police that he smothered her with a cushion and hit her with trophies she had won in various competitions.
Gezmu was a member of the Neuilly sur Marne athletics club, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said in a written statement. The petite distance runner, who stood at 4 feet, 9 inches tall, was a three-time winner of the Marathon de Senart with a personal best time of 2:32:48 at the 26.2-mile distance, which she set by placing sixth at the 2016 Amsterdam Marathon.
Her former coach, Nicolas Valat, described Gezmu as part of the running group’s family, a “discreet woman with a strong character.”
“Here we would support her when she needed because there was always a little language barrier,” Valat told Ouest France. “She was the big sister of some, the little sister of others. She was always with us.”
Gezmu typically fit her training in around a housekeeping job she kept at a nearby hotel, according to Le Parisien, often rising at 5 a.m. to run and working later, earning less than approximately $270 per week. She was a refugee who relied heavily on her athletic performances at races to supplement her income and hoped to have enough to send some money home to her mother, Le Parisien reports.
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