Olympic athlete drowns after car accident

JOHANNESBURG: South African police yesterday confirmed that South African marathon runner Ian Syster and his two-month-old son, Tyrede, drowned in the early hours of Christmas morning after he lost control of his car and it ploughed into a river some 100 kilometres from Upington in the Northern Cape. 

South African media quoted Syster's girlfriend as saying that they had an argument on Christmas Eve and had decided to spend some time apart. “Ian was on the way to Cape Town to spend some time with his family and he was going to discuss matters with them,” Maritza Tietre said. 

Syster sprung onto the scene when he won the South African national marathon championships in 2001 as an unknown athlete. He then gained international recognition with a fifth-place finish at the 2002 London marathon and a victory at the Beijing marathon the same year. He competed at the Athens Olympics, but failed to finish. 

His former coach, Gert Thys, who holds the South African marathon record, said that Syster's death was a great loss. “We have lost a great talent, he could have been the greatest athlete this country had known”, he said. – dpa 

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