Kenya pays tearful tribute to marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum ahead of Friday burial


ATHLETICS Kenya pays tearful tribute to marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum ahead of Friday burial

Festus Chuma 19:31 - 22.02.2024

Thousands mourn in Eldoret as Kenya bids farewell to marathon star Kelvin Kiptum, honoring his legacy and record-breaking achievements.

Hundreds of mourners gathered in a solemn tribute to Kenya's world marathon record-holder Kelvin Kiptum as his body was driven to his home village for burial following his tragic death in a road accident on February 11 near Eldoret in the Rift Valley.

The nation and the global athletics community have been in shock and mourning for the past two weeks over the loss of such a promising young talent at the age of 24.

On the eve of his funeral, an outpouring of grief and respect was palpable as Kiptum's coffin, adorned with flowers, was paraded through Eldoret, drawing a silent, respectful crowd, while others sang hymns in a heartfelt send-off.

Kiptum, who had shattered the world marathon record in Chicago in October of the previous year, was not just a phenomenal athlete but a beloved figure, a father of two, whose sudden demise has left a void in the hearts of many, including his mother Mary Kangongo and widow Asenath Rotich, who were seen weeping inconsolably as his coffin was loaded into the hearse.

The government's gesture of building a new home for his family in Naiberi, near Eldoret, is a testament to the national hero's legacy and the respect he commanded.

"It is difficult to accept this happened. It is a big void in Kenyan athletics," remarked Barnaba Korir, an executive committee member of Athletics Kenya, echoing the sentiment of a nation struggling to come to terms with the loss of such a bright star.

Kiptum's record-breaking marathon time of two hours and 35 seconds in Chicago was not just a personal triumph but a moment of national pride, as he beat the previous record held by marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge by 34 seconds.

The funeral procession, winding its way to Iten, the legendary high-altitude training region, saw roads lined with fans and athletes paying their respects. 

The viewing of Kiptum's body in a half-open casket was a poignant moment for many, including his uncle Philip Kiplagat, who told AFP, "My heart is still so heavy. The whole family is in a critical, sad moment." He remembered Kiptum as a "great man -- someone you rely on," a sentiment echoed by local sports official Purity Koima, who noted that Kiptum was loved by everyone.

While Kenya and the world of athletics mourn the loss of Kelvin Kiptum, his legacy as a record-breaking marathon runner will endure.

 His journey from the highlands of Kenya to the pinnacle of international athletics has been an inspiration to many, and his untimely death is a reminder of the fragility of life and the indomitable spirit of those who dare to chase their dreams.

 In the wake of this tragedy, the community, nation, and sports world come together to honor a life that, though brief, was lived to its fullest potential, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of those who knew him and on the history of athletics.

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