Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Toronto runner dies at 28 after race

Toronto runner dies at 28 after race

Danny Kassap, shown in this 2005 photo, won the first competitive marathon he ran. (Tobin Grimshaw/Canadian Press)

Danny Kassap, who came to Canada in 2001 to participate in the Francophone Games in Ottawa, died early Monday.

He cut short his Toronto Sporting Life run because he wasn't feeling well.

Kassap, a fixture in the Toronto running community, was 28.

'You can die by doing anything, not just running, so why should I stop running?'— Danny Kassap

"Danny was one of the friendliest people I've ever met," said Badhi Shoeri, one of Kassap's friends.

"Throughout the years, he just demonstrated to me what real friendship was. And despite all his talents, he was always incredibly humble and incredibly helpful to people," he told CBC's Metro Morning.

Kassap won the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2004 in two hours 14 minutes 50 seconds in his first try at the distance. At the time, he was working in a fish and chip shop to pay the bills.

The five-foot-seven, 125-pound Kassap, who did not get Canadian citizenship until 2008 after an initial refugee claim was rejected, ran the distance three minutes faster than any Canadian.

Runner 'seemed fine' before death

Kassap told Shoeri before Sunday's race he thought he was coming down with a cold.

Kassap called Shoeri after he pulled out Sunday. The two watched a movie together at Kassap's apartment that evening.

Kassap "seemed fine, he was laughing," said Shoeri.

When Shoeri left at around 10 p.m. Kassap walked him to his car.

"We chatted a bit, I gave him a hug and I left. And then I got a call at 3 in the morning to rush to the hospital. And I went to Sunnybrook [Health Sciences Centre] and I found out that he had passed away," Shoeri said, his voice trembling.

The cause of his death is not immediately known, and an autopsy is expected to be performed Wednesday.

Kassap had a near-death experience three years ago when he ran in Berlin's marathon.

He was placed in a medically induced coma for several days and, upon returning to Canada, was diagnosed as having suffered a "ventricular fibrillation" brought on by an inflammation of the heart that was caused by a cold virus.

He took eight months off to recover, winning a five-kilometre race before running in a half-marathon almost one year to the day he collapsed.

"I was born to be an athlete, so I need to prove it. I'm not giving up," he said in a CBC interview months after he collapsed.

"At some points, people keep asking me — you going to be scared when you're running? Of course, but we all here, we're going to end up dying. So, you're not going to avoid [it]. You can die by doing anything, not just running, so why should I stop running?… I'm going to run the same way I always run."

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