Who was Kelvin Kiptum’s coach Garvais Hakizimana?

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KELVIN Kiptum of Kenya smashed the world record by 34 seconds when he won the Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2023.

Here we take a look at the life and untimely death of the runner’s coach Garvais Hakizimana.

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Kelvin Kiptum and Gervais Hakizimana posing next to the clock marking Kiptum’s world record time at the the Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2023Credit: AFP

Who was Kelvin Kiptum’s coach Garvais Hakizimana?

Hakizimana, who hails from Rwanda, was a runner who first travelled to Kenya at the age of 18 in 2006 to train for the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.

But just a few months later, when post-election violence erupted, he was forced to flee the country.

According to the Marathon Handbook, Hakizimana met Kiptum while he was training in the town of Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Kenya — Kiptum was among the hang-ons who used to join the Rwandese man whenever he was training. 

We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana

Lord Sebastian Coe

A decade ago, when Kiptum was barely a teen, he herded sheep and goats before he began following Hakizimana and other runners as they trained.

READ MORE ON KEVIN KIPTUM

Before becoming a coach, Hakizimana was an athlete who competed against then-world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in the 2016 London Marathon — with Kipchoge winning the race.

What was Garvais Hakizimana’s cause of death?

Both Hakizimana and Kiptum were tragically killed in a motoring accident in the town of Kapsabet, Western Kenya.

Hakizimana was 36 years old at the time of his passing, while Kiptum was just 24.

The London Marathon-winning long-distance runner and his coach lost their lives after Kiptum lost control of his vehicle, before landing in a ditch and colliding with a tree.

According to reports a third passenger, Sharon Kosgey, was also in the car at the time of the collision.

She survived the impact but suffered serious injuries and was rushed to Racecourse Hospital to receive medical attention.

The crash happened at approximately 11pm (8pm GMT) on Sunday, February 11, 2024, Elgeyo Marakwet Police Cmdr Peter Mulinge told the Nation newspaper.

How Kelvin Kiptum went from borrowing shoes to winning London Marathon

Kelvin Kiptum was renowned for being the only person in history to run the marathon in under two hours and one minute.

But the Kenyan, 24, had to rise from the depths of poverty prior to his remarkable success.

When he lined up for his first major local competition in 2018, Kiptum did so wearing borrowed running shoes because he could not afford a pair of his own.

Kiptum began his career on the road, breaking away from the past tradition of athletes starting on the track before switching to longer distances.

But that wasn’t out of choice.

Kiptum claims he made the decision purely because of a lack of resources.

“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he explained to BBC Sport Africa.

“My training place is far from a track, so I started training with road-running guys – and that’s how I got into marathon.”

He added: “This was a self-involved accident where one Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, was driving his vehicle with two passengers.

“Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot and the third person was rushed to Racecourse hospital in Eldoret.”

What has been said about his death?

President of World Athletics Lord Sebastian Coe released a statement reading: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.

“On behalf of all World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, team mates and the Kenyan nation.

“It was only earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon World Record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time.

“An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”

Former Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga paid tribute on X, formerly Twitter, writing: “Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual, Kelvin Kiptum, world record holder and Kenyan athletics icon.

“Together with his coach, they tragically passed on in an accident tonight.

“My deepest condolences to his loved ones, friends, and the entire athletics fraternity.

Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”

London Marathon organisers also honoured Garvais and Kelving, saying: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear the terrible news of the death of marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.

“The thoughts of everyone at the TCS London Marathon are with Kelvin’s and Gervais’ family and friends.”

Why it took Kiptum 23 YEARS to agree to run a marathon

Kiptum may have been a world record holder and champion but it took a lot of convincing to get him to run in the first place.

According to his coach Garvais Hakizimana – who died alongside him this week – Kiptum needed time to warm up to the idea of running a marathon.

The Kenyan initially feared that it might be too tough.

“He had some fear and preferred the shorter half-marathon until 2022 when he finally agreed to a marathon,” Hakizimana told BBC Sport Africa.

Fast forward a few years and Kiptum would have 42km triumphs in Valencia, London and Chicago.

But there were also other complications getting in the way of Kiptum fulfilling his potential.

Kiptum had to convince his family that he could make it in athletics.

His father had been adamant that he should go to college instead.

“He wanted me to study to pursue my diploma to be an electrician but I was saying that I needed to be an athlete – I had that passion,” Kiptum recalled.

“That period was very hard for me because I trained for four years, yet there were no successes and they were disappointed in me. But I kept on pushing.”

Eventually his father came around, even occasionally helping him get to early morning training on time.





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