All Blacks leg­end Lomu dies aged 40

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

WELLING­TON: New Zealand rugby leg­end Jonah Lomu, who rev­o­lu­tionised wing play to be­come the sport’s first global su­per­star, died yes­ter­day in Auck­land at the age of 40, prompt­ing a global out­pour­ing of grief. Lomu had suf­fered from kid­ney dis­ease for two decades and had a trans­plant in 2004 but for­mer All Blacks doc­tor John May­hew said his death was a com­plete shock. “It was to­tally un­ex­pected,” May­hew said. “Jonah and his fam­ily ar­rived back from the United King­dom last night and he sud­denly died this morn­ing.”

Lomu, who was await­ing an­other trans­plant and un­der­go­ing dial­y­sis treat­ment, had un­der­taken com­mer­cial obli­ga­tions at the re­cent Rugby World Cup in Eng­land, won by New Zealand. His death took the rugby-mad coun­try by sur­prise and trig­gered a flood of mes­sages of con­do­lence from around the world. New Zealand’s par­lia­ment ex­pressed their sor­row be­fore they be­gan pro­ceed­ings on Wed­nes­day.

“Any­one who was liv­ing in New Zealand in the 1990s would not have failed to no­tice the mas­sive im­pact Jonah Lomu had not only on sports fans but the wider com­mu­nity in this coun­try,” Sports Min­is­ter Jonathan Coleman said. “He was a man who came from hum­ble beginnings in Man­gere, South Auck­land and rose to be­come rugby’s first global su­per­star.”

World Rugby Chair­man Bernard La­pas­set led the in­ter­na­tional trib­utes: “Jonah’s con­tri­bu­tion to rugby can­not be over­stated,” he said in a state­ment.

“He was the first su­per­star player and, through his sheer bril­liance and love of the game, he brought much joy to the rugby fam­ily and took our sport to a new level of pro­file.” Lomu’s record of 37 tries in 63 tests was an im­pres­sive haul, all the more so con­sid­er­ing he played much of his ca­reer with nephritic syn­drome, the dis­ease that at­tacked his kid­neys. New Zealand Rugby, who ar­guably owe part of their huge com­mer­cial suc­cess over the last 20 years to Lomu’s per­for­mances at the 1995 World Cup, said they were “shocked and sad­dened” by Lomu’s death. “We’re lost for words and our heart­felt sym­pa­thies go out to Jonah’s fam­ily,” chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Tew said. “Jonah was a leg­end of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world.”


Born to Ton­gan par­ents in South Auck­land, Lomu spent some of his child­hood back in the Pa­cific Is­land na­tion af­ter a cousin was hacked to death in a street at­tack.

He was then sent to Wes­ley Col­lege where he quickly found his niche on the sports field and was timed run­ning un­der 11 sec­onds in the 100 me­tres. All Blacks coach Lau­rie Mains plucked him out of sev­ens rugby in 1994 but Lomu found his tran­si­tion from the loose for­ward po­si­tion he played at sec­ondary school to the wing a chal­lenge. He was dropped af­ter his first two tests against France in 1994 and barely made the Rugby World Cup squad for South Africa the fol­low­ing year af­ter be­ing deemed not fit enough for the fast-paced game the coach wanted to play. He proved al­most un­stop­pable at the tour­na­ment, how­ever, elec­tri­fy­ing the rugby world with seven tries-four in the semi-fi­nal against Eng­land alone, in­clud­ing one when he tram­pled over full­back Mike Catt that left many speech­less. The pace and power dis­played by the 1.95m tall and 119kg Lomu changed the wing po­si­tion for­ever, with the tra­di­tional light­weight flyer grad­u­ally all but dis­ap­pear­ing from the test game. The im­pact he made at the tour­na­ment cat­a­pulted the qui­etly-spo­ken Lomu to world­wide fame and was one cat­a­lyst for the rugby turn­ing pro­fes­sional shortly af­ter­wards. The rav­ages of Lomu’s dis­ease had be­gun to af­fect him and his per­for­mances went down­hill from 1998, al­though he still made the 1999 World Cup squad and scored eight tries. He played his last test against Wales in 2002.

Lomu’s health de­te­ri­o­rated from that point and he had a trans­plant in 2004 when a friend do­nated one of his own kid­neys for the pro­ce­dure. By the time of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, when Lomu fea­tured heav­ily in the open­ing cer­e­mony, the kid­ney had be­gun to fail and he was forced back onto dial­y­sis. “Jonah Lomu was a player who changed the face of mod­ern rugby,” the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Thomas Bach said. “He was an icon not just for New Zealand fans but for all rugby fans around the world. It is sad that he did not live to see the sport re­turn to the Olympics Games next year in Rio de Janeiro.” — Reuters

LOS AN­GE­LES: Rugby player Alev Kel­ter poses for a por­trait at the USOC Rio Olympics Shoot at Quixote Stu­dios yes­ter­day in Los An­ge­les, Cal­i­for­nia. — AFP

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