Gervais Hakizimana: Who is Kelvin Kiptum’s coach that died alongside the world marathon record holder?

ATHLETICS Gervais Hakizimana: Who is Kelvin Kiptum’s coach that died alongside the world marathon record holder?

Joel Omotto 07:00 - 13.02.2024

Pulse Sports details everything you need to know about the Rwandan coach who was behind Kelvin Kiptum’s marathon success before they died together in a car crash on Sunday

World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum tragically passed away in a road accident alongside his coach Gervais Hakizimana on Sunday night.

News of their demise sent shock waves in Kenya and beyond given what they had achieved in a short period of time together.

The two, who became bosom buddies when the world marathon record holder was still a child, formed a strong bond that was only separated at death, cutting short what promised to be a successful and lucrative athletics career.

While Kiptum’s demise has dominated headlines, little has been spoken about the man who was behind his meteoric rise.

So, who is Gervais Hakizimana, the Rwandan national who died together with Kiptum?

The 37-year-old was a former athlete who was born in Nyaruguru in the Northern Province of Rwanda also specialised in long distance races like Kiptum.

He is Rwanda’s national record holder for the men’s 3000m steeplechase and won a number of races in France, among them the Lons-Le-Saunier 10km race in France in 2010 and the 2012 Pezenas National Meet in 2012.

He managed second place at the 2010 Francoville French Club Championships and at the Beauvais Half Marathon four years later. He also featured at the 2016 London Marathon, a race won by Kenya’s Eliud Kiochoge, but did not finish due to an injury that would later force him into retirement.

“By 2015, I was already struggling with injuries. I used to go a lot to France where the only running I would do is to jog to keep fit. By then he [Kiptum] had also began training and would seek advice from me on how to become a better runner. It was at the same time I was also training certain Rwandese athletes in France,” Hakizimana told Capital last year.

Hakizimana first came to Kenya in 2006 when he was 18 to train for the 2007 World Cross Country Championship that was held in Mombasa.

He would flee the country at the height of the 2007 post-election violence and went back to France but was back to Kenya a few years later.

During his second stint in Kenya, Hakizimana was training in Chepkorio, Elgeyo Marakwaet county, near Kiptum’s home and would often meet the youngster herding his father’s cattle and their constant interactions had the boy intrigued.

“During the covid-19 pandemic, I was stuck here in Kenya and couldn’t go back to France. It so happens that he had competed in two half marathon races in a space of 10 days and performed so well. That’s when I knew he had a lot of potential. From then on, I officially became his coach,” Hakizimana further revealed.

From then, they forged a partnership that went beyond athletics. Kiptum’s international debut unfolded in 2019 as a teenager, achieving a notable fifth place finish at the Lisbon Half Marathon in a time of 59:54.

He then set a half marathon personal best of 58:42 at the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon, consistently breaking the 60-minute barrier in subsequent races between 2019 and 2021.

These are the achievements that fueled the two men’s desire to go for more and in 2022, he made his first full marathon appearance in Valencia where he made history by clocking 2:01:53, the fastest ever marathon debut.

In April last year, he went to London and ran an incredible 2:01:25, the second fastest time in history at the time, before lowering Kipchoge’s world record by clocking 2:00:35 in Chicago last October.

“In our Kalenjin culture, it is wrong for you to throw away the plate that has fed you. I am happy that my son has stuck with his coach even when he is enjoying success. He (Hakizimana) has been like a father to him throughout this journey,” Kiptum’s father Samson Cheruiyot said of the relationship between the two men.

The two were planning to make more history this year after the marathoner promised to become the first man to run an official marathon under two in Rotterdam in April before what could have been an epic showdown with Kipchoge at the Paris 2024 Olympics but the cruel hand of death struck.

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