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Mourners gather for Kiptum’s funeral in Kenya

  • Kiptum’s funeral draws hundreds
  • World record holder remembered
  • Tragic car accident mourned

At a funeral in western Kenya, marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, whose aspirations to surpass the two-hour mark were dashed by a fatal car accident this month, was remembered for his brilliance and modesty.

Hundreds of mourners attended the service on Friday in his hometown of Chepkorio, Rift Valley. Political and athletic dignitaries such as President William Ruto and World Athletics President Sebastian Coe were present.

Kiptum, 24, had completed three international marathons, each among the seven fastest ever recorded. In October, he set the world record in Chicago with a time of two hours and thirty-five seconds, beating the previous record held by his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge by 34 seconds.

Bishop Paul Korir, an Anglican clergyman, led the service, highlighting Kiptum’s humility and ties to the local community, where he had worked as a livestock herder and trained as an electrician before his professional running career.

“Kiptum dined with the high and mighty while also coming to Chepkorio to play pool,” Korir said.

His sudden death has shocked Kenya and the wider athletics community.

“He was a true superstar whose career was on a remarkable rise,” said Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei. “All signs were that he would break the two-hour barrier.”

Kenya’s leading Daily Nation newspaper ran the headline “Fare thee well, champ” on its front page on Friday.

Some mourners, including 1,500-meter record holder Faith Kipyegon, arrived at the funeral early in the morning, wearing black T-shirts with an image of Kiptum. They viewed the body, which lay on a red carpet in a half-open coffin, as a choir sang hymns.

Broadcasters showed the service on four large screens for the vast crowd of villagers gathered outside the venue.

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Later on Friday, they were to bury Kiptum in a family plot near Eldoret. A government-built house is under construction for his wife and two children.

His widow, Asenath Cheruto, said she and Kiptum, who married traditionally in 2017, had planned to celebrate their marriage with a “grand wedding ceremony” in April. “You have been the most wonderful father and husband to our children,” she wept.

Kiptum was expected to attempt breaking two hours at a marathon in Rotterdam in April and to make his Olympic debut in Paris this year, potentially facing Kipchoge in their first head-to-head meeting. After losing control, the runner’s automobile crashed, killing him and his coach, 36-year-old Rwandan Gervais Hakizimana.

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