Marathon Record Holder Kiptum Remembered for Humility, Hard Work at Funeral

NAIROBI, KENYA — Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum, who died this month along with his coach, Gervais Hakizimana, in a car crash, was buried Friday in his hometown of Chepkorio, Kenya. Mourners remembered Kiptum as a humble, talented and hardworking athlete.

Family members, friends, top dignitaries, and thousands of others showed up to say farewell and pay a final tribute to Kiptum. Kenyan President William Ruto was among the speakers.

“In Kelvin, we saw the future of athletics in Kenya,” Ruto said. “Kelvin has stood out not just as a great athlete but as a great person. … He was ambitious, disciplined and focused.”

Brian Chebii, a resident of the runner’s home county, Elgeyo-Marakwet, spoke to VOA after signing Kiptum’s condolence book for Athletics Kenya, the country’s sports governing body.

“Kelvin Kiptum … was a guy of capabilities … running was his passion,” Chebii said. “He motivated us. That’s why when he passed away, it was a great pain for us. We can’t just send him off that way. That’s why I had to come and represent the rest of my colleagues.”

Kiptum accomplished much in his 24 years, including setting a world-record marathon time of 2 hours, 35 seconds in Chicago last October, beating the previous record holder, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.

Earlier on social media, Kipchoge said he was deeply saddened by the sudden death of an athlete “who had a whole life ahead of him to accomplish incredible greatness.”

That feeling was echoed by one of Kenya’s fastest sprinters, Ferdinand Omanyala, who told VOA the world lost Kiptum too soon.

“I was so touched by what happened because I can relate at how ambitious athletes are when they start doing professional athletics and how many goals they’ve set for themselves, so that’s a very tragic thing that happened,” Omanyala said.

Paul Tuitoek, chair of Athletics Kenya’s university division, said, “The whole athletics family is definitely devastated. All our athletes are mourning, including our top marathoners. … Of course, Kenyans were waiting to see what would happen at the Paris Olympics.”

Tuitoek told VOA he was hoping Team Kenya, with top athletes such as Kiptum, Kipchoge and Omanyala, would grab a few medals at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

Meanwhile, he said, the world can participate in shaping the legacy of Kiptum.

“He’s already put marathon world running in another level,” he said.

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