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Funeral procession for Kenyan marathoner Kiptum

Kelvin Kiptum broke the marathon record in October
Kelvin Kiptum broke the marathon record in October - Copyright AFP -
Kelvin Kiptum broke the marathon record in October - Copyright AFP -

Hundreds of people gathered in the Kenyan athletics hub of Eldoret on Thursday for a funeral procession in honour of marathon prodigy Kelvin Kiptum, who died earlier this month when his car crashed into a tree. 

His coffin, encircled with flowers, was carried in a hearse through the streets of the town in the Rift Valley of western Kenya, some watching in silence, others singing hymns.

Kiptum was killed on February 11 at the age of 24, just a few months after he smashed the world marathon record.

“It is difficult to accept this happened,” Athletics Kenya executive committee member Barnaba Korir said.

“It is a big void in Kenyan athletics.”

A married father of two, Kiptum will be laid to rest on Friday at his home in Chepkorio, near Eldoret, a day after a requiem mass. 

The procession snaked its way through roads lined with fans and athletes as it headed towards to Iten, the legendary high-altitude training region.

“We have to accept that Kiptum is no longer with us,” cleric Philip Chumo said as the coffin was loaded into the black hearse.

“He is here in spirit.”

Local sports official Purity Koima said Kiptum was loved by everyone.

“We lost so many athletes here in Iten but Kiptum’s death has hit everyone hard,” she said.

– ‘Severe head injuries’ –

Police said Kiptum was driving near Eldoret around 11:00 pm (2000 GMT) when his car veered off the road into a ditch and hit a tree.

His Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, 36, also died in the accident while another passenger, a woman, was injured.

“We found that the late Kelvin had severe head injuries and there were severe fractures which were mainly at the base of the skull,” chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor said on Wednesday after an autopsy.

Toxicology tests were still under way, he added. 

Kiptum burst onto the marathon scene in 2022 and shattered the world record in Chicago in October last year.

He ran in a time of two hours 35 seconds, slicing 34 seconds off the previous fastest time, set by his Kenyan rival, the marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.

The young athlete had competed in only three marathons and recorded three of the all-time fastest seven times for the event.

He was the favourite to take gold at this year’s Paris Olympics, where he was expected to go head-to-head with Kipchoge for the first time.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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