Ruto leads country in mourning Kiptum as marathoner buried

President William Ruto condoles with Kelvin Kiptum's wife before the burial service on Feb 23, 2024. [PCS]

President William Ruto led hundreds of mourners, including international sporting dignitaries, in paying their last respects to marathon World Record holder Kelvin Kiptum in Elgeyo Marakwet county yesterday.

The mourners braved the chilly weather in the high altitude Chepkorio Show Grounds to witness the burial of Kiptum, whom the head of state described as a uniting factor in the country and globally through his athletics achievement.

Ruto was with Deputy Rigathi Gachagua. He said Kiptum went beyond boundaries from an unknown village and unknown parents to become a global hero who has also united the world and has a world record under his name.

“Sports CS Ababu Namwamba broke the news of Kiptum’s demise moments after the accident and it was a really heavy moment for us because in Kiptum, we saw the future of athletics in Kenya.

“Kiptum had stood out not only as a great athlete but more importantly as a good person with a good heart. We are here to mourn and celebrate him,” Ruto said.

The president noted that despite their humble background and little-known parents, Kiptum who at one time competed barefoot, never made the impediments to block his way to success. He defied all odds through hard work and discipline to become a hero at the international levels.

President William Ruto chats with Kelvin Kiptum's father. [PCS]

“He was ambitious, disciplined and focused. Hard work and dedication saw him break a world record. He worked against the odds and that also serves as a lesson to us as a country,” Ruto said.

Ruto added: “Kiptum, even in his death is speaking to us as Kenya, that we may not have so much and that should not deter us from being the great country that we must be. All of us as the people of Kenya, must love this country enough to be able, each of us to do their best to make the country great.”

He noted that at only 24, Kiptum had just joined the many heroes and great ambassadors of the country that keep the country on the world map through athletics.

“We had faith and hope that he would keep Kenya on that map even in the coming Olympic Games in Paris,” he said urging local athletes to make a difference in the coming competition in honour of the fallen athlete.

The president also assured athletes that his administration was working to ensure that all matters about sports are addressed.

Ruto said the government has committed $5 million to the World Athletics to ensure challenges of doping are dealt with in the country.

“We plan to spend close to Sh3.5 billion over the next five years because we cannot allow a situation where the country is on the wrong list of doping,” he said.

Ruto said the country had been listed as a candidate to be banned for doping before the government took administrative steps to address the problem.

“We had to engage World Athletics President Sebastian Coe who advised on steps to be put in place, including a fund to deal with the challenge. I am happy we complied and Kenya today is off the list of countries likely to be banned,” said Ruto expressing gratitude to Coe who was also at the funeral service.

He urged athletes to exploit their talent and work hard by running and winning clean.

Ruto also said a Sports Fund is now in place to deal exclusively with issues of sports. “We have reinstated a Sports Fund dedicated 100 per cent to dealing with matters of sports. All facilities, and training centres among other needs requested will be handled by the government to give a good environment for sportsmen,” added Ruto.

He said other interventions, including endowment funds and pension, have been started and urged sportsmen to register so that their financial needs are addressed after retirement.

The reward system, he said, will include training to ensure sportsmen gain immediate and long-term benefits. He said apart from the house constructed by the government for Kiptum at Naiberi, his widow will also receive another house through a reward programme for the fallen hero.

Yesterday, mourners thronged Chepkorio grounds as early as 6am to pay their last respects to Kiptum who hailed from Chepsamo village.

There was heavy security in the well-organised ceremony.

President William Ruto arrives for the late Marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum's burial service. [PCS]

Initially, the ceremony was to be held at Chepsamo Primary, Kiptum’s school, but was relocated due to strong winds.

There were queues as security personnel made checks on those attending the ceremony where Nandi Anglican Church (ACK) diocese Bishop Paul Korir presided over the service.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Cabinet Secretaries Ababu Namwamba (Sports), Kipchumba Murkomen (Roads) and Florence Bore (Labour), governors Wesley Rotich (host), Jonathan Bii (Uasin Gishu), Stephen Sang (Nandi) and Simon Kachapin (West Pokot), and 13 MPs were among those in attendance.

Kenya’s world record beaters, both retired and active, turned up in large numbers in honour of their colleague. Experienced athletes were joined by budding counterparts.

Former Olympic champion Kipchoge Keino led a number of veteran athletes in Kiptum’s final rites. Daniel Komen, a 3,000m legend was among those who featured prominently in the interment ceremony.

The 1,500m world record holder, Faith Kipyegon, was among hundreds of Olympic and World Championship medalists who were also present. Also in the company was Tanzanian athlete Gabriel Geay who finished second behind Kiptum in Valencia Marathon.

Golazo Sports management which represented Kiptum since 2017 was also represented.

CEO Bob Verbeeck said Kiptum was humble and charismatic. “The world record in Chicago was just the beginning and the running under two hours would be intermediate in greater things in his mind,” Verbeeck said.

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