Tuesday, February 27, 2024

World Athletics President ‘Shocked’ by Kelvin Kiptum’s Tragic Death at 24

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“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” Kelvin Kiptum, one of the best rising Marathon Runners of Kenya, told in an interview with BBC last year. So that is how the saga started, not out of passion, but to meet the necessities of life. But the journey that started of distress, capitalized into a revered chapter of the track and field. Surely, Kiptum would have added more pages to that. But destiny had some other things planned for it.

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Kelvin Kiptum could not secure a victory over that destiny this time. The 24-year-old, who broke country mate, two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge’s World Record last year, lost his life in a road accident in Kenya. His coach, Gervais Hakizimana, also died along with Kiptum, leaving the athletics realm utterly shocked. World Athletics President Sebastian Coe’s message on X reflected that very shock of the entire community.

The man could have changed history, left his job unfinished

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It was on October 8, 2023, when Kelvin Kiptum broke Eliud Kipchoge’s world record in the 42.2km (26.2 mile) race in the Chicago Marathon. Kiptum’s timing of 2:00:35 came out 34 seconds faster than that of Kipchoge’s. It was earlier this week in Chicago that Sebastian Coe ratified the record on behalf of World Athletics. He was also the one who handed over Kiptum the trophy of World Athletics’ Male Athlete of the Year award just two months earlier. Coe could not seem to overcome the fact as he penned the note on X.

Sebastian Coe wrote, “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana. On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.”

He further added, “An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.” Another Kenyan runner, David Rushida, almost echoed Coe’s words. The 2x Olympic Champion in 800m wrote, “This is a huge loss.” The tragic incident took place when Kiptum was “driving his vehicle with two passengers,” informed Elgeyo Marakwet County Police Commander Peter Mulinge. “Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot and the third person was rushed to Racecourse Hospital in Eldoret,” he further added.

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Kiptum leaves behind his wife Asenath Rotich and two children. Apart from that, there remains a bagful of memories and his bejeweled resume that raised the possibilities of unthinkable greatness as pointed out by Joe Pompliano. The entrepreneur wrote on X, “He was going to rewrite the record book.” By no means, this was an over-statement, given Kipchoge’s staunch records in his short lifetime. But that flurry of records had a very humble start.

A humble beginning that became a dominant force

Born and raised in Chepsamo village in Chepkorio, 30km from Eldoret in the Rift Valley, Kiptum worked on his family’s cattle farm. He started running at about the age of 13. “I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefooted…he’d come kicking at my heels and I would chase him away,” his coach Hakizimana told on a previous occasion. It was in 2013 that Kiptum took part in the Eldoret Half Marathon and placed 10th overall. His talent started to show in just five years as won the same race in 2018. After that, there was no looking back.

Kelvin Kiptum made his international debut in 2019. On that occasion, the Lisbon Half Marathon saw him clocking 59:54 to finish fifth. Showing the flair of his talent early, from 2019 to 2021, Kiptum broke the 60-second barrier in Half Marathon six times. But it was in the 2022 Valencia Marathon that Kiptum showed his true colors and gave a glimpse of what was going to come in the near future.

Long distance with blazing speed: a trademark of Kelvin Kiptum

Kelvin Kiptum finished the Valencia Marathon in a course record of 2:01:53. This made him the fastest debutant in the Marathon in history. Alongside, he earned a well-deserved third place on the world all-time list behind distance legends Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele. He reiterated his success in the London Marathon last year.

On that occasion, he once again ended the race with a record time of 2:01:25. It seemed that made it a habit to finish the long-distance races with a blazing fast speed. Understandably, the clock was ticking for Eliud Kipchoge’s record. Therefore, when Kiptum finally broke that in Chicago, Kipchoge himself was not surprised.

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“I was not surprised about [Kiptum] breaking the world record,” Kipchoge told in a press conference after Kiptum’s feat. Interestingly Kiptum himself stated, “I had planned for it in Chicago next year or even 2025. Fortunately, it just came in Chicago and it’s a dream come true.” One dream gives rise to another dream. Kiptum was also not the exception. So he started harboring one more dream.

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A runner with a humble beginning came out very simply with that dream, “I am dreaming of the Paris Olympics. If I get a chance to be selected by the selectors, I’ll be thankful and I’ll go there and try to win a medal.” But here struck the most obvious of the world. Just when the stage is being set for the biggest sporting spectacle in the world, one of the probable stars of that stage is extinguished forever. With utmost shock and grief, we pray, may his soul rest in peace.

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