Ecuadorian Olympic sprinter Alex Quinonez has been shot dead in the port city of Guayaquil.
Quinonez, 32, and another person were found dead close to midnight (05:00 GMT) on Friday, according to police, with the killing sparking an outpouring of grief in a country struggling to contain a surge in violence.
Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso promised to bring his killers to justice.
“Those who take the lives of Ecuadoreans will not remain unpunished. We will act with force,” Lasso tweeted.
“No one will rest until @PoliciaEcuador captures the culprits. We are facing a war against drug gangs that intend to subdue us,” Pablo Arosemena, the governor of Guayas province, whose capital is Guayaquil, said on Twitter.
The country’s sports ministry confirmed Quinonez’s killing on Twitter, paying tribute to “the greatest sprinter this country produced”.
“We have lost a great sportsman, someone who allowed us to dream, who moved us,” the ministry said.
Jennifer Lugo, wife of Quiñonez, is seen outside the morgue in Guayaquil, Ecuador [Fernando Méndez / AFP]
Quinonez held Ecuador’s record for the 200m sprint with a time of 19.87 seconds.
He was a finalist in the 2012 London Olympics, achieving seventh place after competing in the semis in the lane next to Usain Bolt.
Quinonez won bronze in the 200m at the 2019 World Championships in Qatar.
Ecuador’s Olympic Committee said Quinonez’s death “leaves us with profound pain” and that his “legacy will forever stay in our hearts”.
“I don’t have words to express the sadness, helplessness and indignation that is overwhelming me,” wrote Andrea Sotomayor, the secretary-general of the Ecuadorian Olympic Committee.
“Alex Quinonez was the synonym of humility and a clear example of resilience. His loss leaves us with pain in our chests.”
A tribute on Sunday will see the athlete’s coffin placed in a burning chapel in a football stadium in the town, said the sports ministry.
Quinonez’s killing comes as violence has spiked dramatically in Ecuador in recent months.
Between January and October this year, the country registered almost 1,900 homicides, compared with about 1,400 in all of 2020, according to the government.
President Lasso decreed a state of emergency throughout the country last week and is due to last 60 days with the military to take to the streets to patrol and carry out searches.
Quinonez was preparing for training in the US with a view to his official return to the tracks and eventual participation in the World Athletics Championships in Oregon next year.
A serious contender for the podium at the Tokyo Olympics, Quinonez could not compete due to a sanction from the International Athletics Federation for not correctly reporting his whereabouts for out-of-competition anti-doping tests.