Pregnant Ethiopian Olympian Meskerem Legesse Died Of Heart Attack In Hamden
Meskerem Legesse, a 26-year-old Ethiopian Olympic runner living in Westport who was eight months pregnant, died of a massive heart attack Monday in Hamden but hospital personnel were able to deliver the baby.
Legesse, who ran the 1,500 meters in the 2004 Olympics for Ethiopia, leaves her husband Tom Laverty and a 2-year-old son. She was due to deliver her second child in three weeks.
Officers responded at about 2 p.m. Monday to the 900 block of Dixwell Avenue, Captain Ronald Smith of the Hamden police department said. Fire department personnel were already on the scene performing CPR on Legesse. She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, with an ambulance crew continuing CPR.
Legesse competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens in the 1,500 meters at age 17, placing 12th. She won the Ethiopian national titles in the 800 and 1,500 meters at age 16 in 2003, ran the world junior record indoors in the 800 (2:01.03) in 2004 and set the African junior record for the 1,500 (4:03.96) at the Prefontaine Classic in 2003.
She had finished fifth twice in the Fifth Avenue Mile in 2007 and 2008 and finished seventh in the mile at the Millrose Games in New York City in 2005.
There is a large population of Ethiopian runners in the New York City area and in the suburbs. Bill Staab, the president of the New York City-based West Side Runners club, knew Legesse, although she was not a member of his club.
She was quite beloved in the running community,” Staab said. “She was charming, a very attractive woman and a good mother. It’s a tremendous loss to the Ethiopian running community in the New York area.”