Kenyan MPs honour Kiptum amid calls to better protect athletesTue, 13 Feb 2024 14:10:29 GMT

Kenyan lawmakers held a minute of silence on Tuesday in honour of running star Kelvin Kiptum after his death in a late-night car crash, and appealed for better support and protection for the country’s sporting talent.Kiptum, who smashed the world marathon record in October, was killed along with his Rwandan coach in the accident near his home in the Eldoret area in Kenya’s Rift Valley on Sunday.His death at the age of just 24, shocked his homeland and the world of athletics, with his compatriot and rival Eliud Kipchoge leading tributes to the “rising star”.In Nairobi, members of parliament bowed their heads for a minute’s silence for the man who rose from humble beginnings as a herder to record three of the seven fastest marathon times in history.He was a favourite for marathon gold at the Paris Olympics later this year, where he was due to face off against his older rival Kipchoge for the first time. “At the young age of 24 years, Mr Kiptum had achieved what many athletes could only dream of,” said Ng’elechei Caroline Jeptoo, MP for Elgeyo Marakwet County where the accident occurred.”He was a beacon of hope not only to people of his village but also to the many in the country and beyond.”- ‘State of shock’ -Several lawmakers called for a full investigation into the crash and for better protection of Kenya’s athletes.Police said Kiptum was driving from Kaptagat to Eldoret around 11 pm (2000 GMT) Sunday when the accident occurred.A police report said the father of two had lost control of the car and veered into a ditch before hitting a tree. Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed on the spot while a woman passenger was injured.”As we mourn, some actions must be taken by the ministry of sports… they must take our athletes seriously,” said Kiptum’s local MP Gideon Kimaiyo.”Some of the athletes are young with promising careers but they are left on their own.”His call was echoed by opposition MP Phelix Odiwuor.”There should be a thorough investigation into what caused the accident,” he said. “Our athletes should be treated as VIPs and be given security.”The governor of Uasin Gishu county, where the high-altitude training hub of Eldoret is located, has also appealed for a full probe.”We are asking the police to investigate what really happened and to tell us what caused the accident,” Jonathan Bii told reporters on Monday. “The whole world is in a state of shock.” Kiptum’s death is the latest in a saga of tragedies to hit Kenyan athletes.In 2011, Kenyan marathon great Samuel Wanjiru died at the same age in a mysterious incident at his home after capturing the title at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.In 2021, distance running star Agnes Tirop was found stabbed to death at the age of 25 at her house in Iten, near Eldoret.Her husband Ibrahim Rotich went on trial for her murder in November last year.Top athletes, world sporting officials and Kenyan leaders have joined in paying tribute to Kiptum, who sliced 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s world record at the Chicago marathon in October last year.”An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy,” said Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics.