Jonah Lomu, the former left wing rugby player with the New Zealand All Blacks, has died suddenly, and unexpectedly, at the age of 40. The rugby legend was reported to have developed a “rare but serious” kidney condition, according to the BBC.
Lomu played from 1994 until 2002, when the condition forced him to stop playing rugby. When he stopped playing, he was said to have changed the “position and expectation of a rugby winger forever.”
“The thoughts of the entire country are with his family,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was quoted.
Over his career with the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national men’s rugby union team, Jonah Lomu was reported to have scored 43 tries and played in 73 games by the BBC, to have scored 37 tries and played in 63 games by the Sydney Morning Herald.
In the 1995 World Cup tournament alone, Lomu was reported to have scored a total of seven tries. Lomu was also the youngest person to ever play for the All Blacks, having started with the team when he was 19 years and 45 days old.
Lomu received a transplant in 2004, but the new kidney stopped working in 2011. The New Zealand player was reported to have attended the 2015 World Cup in England and to have just recently arrived home.
“Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world,” Steve Tew, the New Zealand Rugby chief executive was quoted.
In a segment of a The Clare Balding Show interview, Lomu told the host that he had been “stabbed twice” when he was younger.
Balding asked Jonah Lomu if he thinks that rugby “saved him” from letting his life go down a “dark and bleak” path.
“Oh, yeah. Very much so,” Lomu replied in a soft voice. He described an uncle that had died after being decapitated, his cousin being stabbed to death, and being “stabbed twice” himself. He described growing up in what sounded like a rough area, Mangere, which is near Auckland, stating that violence “came with the territory” and that it was necessary to learn how to protect oneself and to “learn how to fight.”
Jonah Lomu then described rugby as being the perfect place to release anger accumulated through the rough environment he found himself in earlier in his life. He was of Tongan ancestry, reports Stuff.
“When we saw him on the world stage, doing what he was doing and accomplishing what he was accomplishing, that gave us a sense of pride and the feeling that we could do that, that any islander could do that kind of thing,” Sonny Bill Williams, a fellow New Zealand player, was quoted with regard to Lomu’s death.
Lomu was described as “bursting” onto the rugby union scene in 1995, as well as “transcending” the sport, and being a “force of nature.” Further, his presence is said to have changed rugby “forever.” Lomu was called a “giant” of the rugby world.
Jonah Lomu was never a member of a team that won the World Rugby Cup. Despite this, he is tied for the record for most tries in the tournament. It is also reported that the New Zealand rugby superstar could run 100 meters in 10.8 seconds, which isn’t far off of the 9.58 second world record set by Usain Bolt in 2009, as reported by io9.
Besides being described as a “superstar” and “cult figure,” Lomu is said to be the first person to become a millionaire by playing rugby, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Jonah Lomu’s last Facebook post was a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks in Paris. “Sois fort,” or “be strong,” the soft-spoken giant wrote in his final words to the world.
Our Hearts go out to the people of Paris Sois fort my friends. From the lomu family.
[Feature Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images]