Eliud Kipchoge and other Kenyan sports icons who became victims of cyberbullying

Eliud Kipchoge and other Kenyan sports icons who became victims of cyberbullying

Joel Omotto 11:00 - 08.05.2024

Marathon great Eliud Kipchoge has shared how social media trolling affected him and his family but who are the other Kenyan sportsmen that suffered similar online attacks?

Marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge has revealed how the online abuse he suffered saw him fear for his life and that of his family.

Kipchoge was the subject of social media bullying in the wake of world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum’s death with some even linking him to the 24-year-old’s demise following a car crash in February.

The two-time Olympic has narrated how the cyberbullying affected him emotionally and mentally and saw him fear for his mother and children while completely eroding his trust in people.

Kipchoge is just one among a host of big-name sporting icons in Kenya who have suffered unfair online trolling.

Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge after his selection to Kenya's Paris Olympics team. Photo: Eliud Kipchoge/Facebook.

Kipchoge was the top trending topic for nearly two days when Kiptum died following a road accident in Elgeyo Marakwet County in the company of his coach Gervais Hakizimana.

Kenyans on social media claimed the marathon great had a hand in his death because he had broken his world record a few months earlier and was set to become the first man to run an official marathon under two hours, besides claiming the Olympics gold.

It was an unfair attack directed at one of Kenya’s biggest sporting names and he has now revealed how it took its toll on him.

"I was shocked that people [on] social media platforms are saying 'Eliud is involved in the death of this boy'," the 39-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

"That was my worst news ever in my life. I received a lot of bad things; that they will burn the (training) camp, they will burn my investments in town, they will burn my house, they will burn my family. It did not happen but that is how the world is."

Kipchoge added that that the trolling saw him control the movement of his mother and children while it had an effect on his next race, the Tokyo Marathon, where he finished a disappointing 10th.

"When I was in Tokyo I had three days which I did not sleep," he added. "It was my worst ever position."

Ferdinand Omanyala

© Ferdinand Omanyala.

Two months after Kipchoge’s unwarranted attack it was the turn of Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala to face the music.

The Commonwealth champion had his name dragged in the mud over an unconfirmed extramarital affair that overshowed his preparations for the Kip Keino Classic.

Omanyala would trend for a number of days while any post he made online was met with disdain from an untrusting public.

Some even went ahead to wish him bud luck in his upcoming assignments and they got their wish when he failed to defend his Kip Keino Classic title, finishing fifth in the 100m that was won by American Kenny Bednarek, having triumphed on home soil in 2022 and 2023.

Omanyala has kept mum over the trolling but the attacks had an impact on his preparations. He will hope to put all that behind him as he focuses on the Paris Olympics.

Michael Olunga

© Michael Olunga

Before Kipchoge and Omanyala, Michael Olunga had faced the wrath of Kenyans online following his goal drought for Harambee Stars last year.

Olunga had gone six matches without scoring but what irked many followers online is that he missed a number of open chances, especially in friendly matches against Qatar and Russia in September and October, as well as against Gabon in the World Cup qualifier in November.

The Harambee Stars captain would face online abuse from fans who questioned his quality and what he brings to the team, with some calling on coach Engin Firat to drop him altogether.

His goal drought coincided with the exclusion of Gor Mahia hit man Benson Omala from the national team and it was used as the stick with which to beat him, some fans claiming the K’Ogalo striker was a batter option that the Al Duhail man.

To his credit, Firat kept faith with Olunga and defended him vigorously. The striker repaid the faith and has since silenced his doubters by scoring seven goals in his last three games in national team colours.

Victor Wanyama

CF Montreal midfielder Victor Wanyama (2) plays the ball during the first half of the game against the Columbus Crew at Stade Saputo on September 9, 2022.

Former Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama was another one who suffered online abuse before he announced his international retirement in September 2021.

Wanyama had been subjected to online trolling from fans who claimed his best days were behind him. The CF Montreal midfielder became the punching bag whenever Harambee Stars underperformed and just like Olunga, he had fans calling for his exit.

The midfielder took it in his stride but seemed to have had enough when he called time on his international career three years ago although he later reversed his decision in December 2022.

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat has not recalled him but the midfielder has gone about his business quietly in the MLS ever since.

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