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Former elite runner Danny Kassap dies at 28

Danny Kassap in a 2006 photo.

Tobin Grimshaw/Tobin Grimshaw/The Globe and Mail

Danny Kassap, a former world-class runner who fled to Canada during the 2001 Francophone Games from Congo, has died. He was 28.

Kassap passed away at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital overnight, according to Alan Brookes, director of the Canada Running Series. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.

"His passion for running, and his positive, enthusiastic personality were infectious," Brookes said.

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Kassap was slated to run the Sporting Life Toronto 10K on Sunday morning but elected not to because he was not feeling good.

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 a full three minutes faster than any Canadian.

The Canadian marathon record of 2:10.08 is one of the oldest on the books, set by Jerome Drayton back in 1975.

He collapsed during a 2008 marathon in Berlin. 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 which 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.

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