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Kenyan marathon sensation Kiptum to be laid to rest

Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum ran three of the seven fastest marathons in history
Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum ran three of the seven fastest marathons in history - Copyright AFP LUIS TATO
Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum ran three of the seven fastest marathons in history - Copyright AFP LUIS TATO

Kenya’s world marathon record-holder Kelvin Kiptum will be laid to rest Friday in the nation’s athletics heartland after the 24-year-old died in a car accident.

President William Ruto and World Athletics head Sebastian Coe are expected to be among the mourners at the funeral in the Rift Valley where Kiptum was born, trained and died.

The father of two veered off the road and hit a tree on February 11, just months after shattering the marathon record in Chicago in October, stunning the world of athletics.

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

While Kiptum only competed in three marathons, he won all of the races, posting three of the seven fastest times for the event.

His sudden death has left Kenya, and the wider athletics community, reeling.

Hundreds turned out Thursday in his home village of Chepkorio in western Kenya to pay an emotional tribute to the rising star who had been the overwhelming favourite for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Fans and athletes lined the roads — some in silence, others singing hymns — as Kiptum’s coffin was transported in a hearse to Iten, the legendary high-altitude training region in the Rift Valley.

Coe, who arrived in Eldoret on Thursday, said he was mourning “an extraordinary young life” stopped in his prime.

“Kelvin’s achievements were extraordinary. That he should have scaled such heights at such a young age in itself is almost unique,” he said.

– Candlelight vigil in Nairobi –

On the eve of the funeral, in the nation’s capital Nairobi, hundreds turned out for a solemn candlelight vigil. 

Kiptum will be laid to rest in Naiberi, near the western Kenyan town of Eldoret in the Rift Valley, where the government is building a new home for the national hero’s family. 

Police said Kiptum was driving near Eldoret at around 11:00 pm on February 11 when his car careered off the road into a ditch and hit a tree.

Kenya’s chief government pathologist, Johansen Oduor, said on Wednesday the results of an autopsy showed Kiptum had suffered severe head injuries.

Toxicology tests were still under way, he added.

His Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, 36, also died in the crash. 

Hakizimana, who had trained Kiptum since 2019, was laid to rest in the Rwandan capital, Kigali on Wednesday.

Known for maintaining a gruelling training schedule that sometimes topped 300 kilometres (190 miles) a week, Kiptum had recently announced he was hoping to smash the mythic two-hour mark at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.

AFP
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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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