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Kenya mourns running sensation

February 23, 2024 18:40 IST
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IMAGE: Pallbearers carry the coffin of Kenya's marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who died in a road accident, during his funeral service at Chepkorio show ground, Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya. Photograph: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, whose dreams of breaking the race's two-hour barrier were ended by a car crash earlier this month, was remembered for his talent and humility at a funeral service on Friday in western Kenya.

The service in the Rift Valley village of Chepkorio was attended by political and sporting dignitaries, including Kenyan President William Ruto and World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.



IMAGE: Kenya's President William Ruto arrives for the funeral service of Kenya's marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum. Photograph: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

The 24-year-old Kiptum had only run three international marathons but each was among the fastest seven times ever recorded. He set the world record in Chicago last October in two hours and 35 seconds, shaving 34 seconds off his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge's mark.

"He was a real superstar whose path was on a spectacular upward trajectory," said the president of Athletics Kenya, Jack Tuwei. "All indications were he was going to beat the two-hour barrier."


IMAGE: A woman reacts as she views the body of Kelvin Kiptum. Photograph: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

Anglican Bishop Paul Korir, who presided over the service, emphasised Kiptum's humility and ties to the local community, where he had worked as a livestock herder and trained as an electrician before becoming a professional runner.

"He dined with the high and mighty, and at the same time he came to play pool at Chepkorio," said Korir.

Kiptum will be buried later on Friday in a family plot near the city of Eldoret, where the government is now building a house for his wife and two young children.


IMAGE: Kenyan runner Faith Kipyegon attends the funeral service of Kelvin Kiptum. Photograph: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

His widow, Asenath Cheruto, said she and Kiptum, who had a traditional marriage in 2017, had planned to hold a "colourful wedding ceremony" in April.

"You have been the best husband and father to our children," she said, breaking down in sobs.

Kiptum had hoped to break two hours at a marathon in Rotterdam in April and was also expected to make his Olympic debut in Paris this year in what could have been his first head-to-head match-up with Kipchoge.

He and coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed when the runner lost control of the vehicle he was driving.

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