“Kelvin Kiptum’s death gave me sleepless nights” – Eliud Kipchoge opens up

Two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge says he feared for the lives of his family during a campaign of online abuse that wrongly linked him to the death of fellow Kenyan marathon runner Kelvin Kiptum.

Kiptum, the world record holder who looked set to challenge Kipchoge’s dominance over 26.2 miles, died aged 24 in a car crash in February.

Some social media users began to speculate that Kipchoge was part of a conspiracy to kill Kiptum, who had lowered the world best to two hours, 35 seconds last October in Chicago.

“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’s initial reaction when he saw the abuse and false rumours was to check whether his family were safe.

“I don’t have power to go to police and tell them my life is in danger. So my concern was actually to tell my family to be extra conscious and cautious,” he said.

“I started to call a lot of people.

“I got really scared of my children going to school and coming back.

“Sometimes they bike around, but we had to stop them because you never know what will happen. We started to drop them [off] and pick them [up] in the evening.

“My girl was in boarding school – that was positive that she had no access as far as social media is concerned – but it’s tough for my boys to hear ‘Your dad has killed somebody’.”

Losing friends and trust

Kelvin Kiptum broke Kipchoge’s marathon world record in Chicago last October, but died in an accident just four months later

Kipchoge was overtaken by emotion during a candid interview at his home in Eldoret when discussing the impact the campaign of abuse had on his mother.

“My worst moment was (when) I tried to call my mum,” he said.

“She told me ‘Just take care’ and ‘A lot has been going on’.

“Where I come from is a really local area. And with the age of my mum, I really realised that social media can go everywhere.

“But she gave me courage. It was really a tough month.”

However, Kipchoge, who became just the third person to win successive Olympic marathons when he defended his title in Tokyo in 2021, decided not to take precautions over his own safety.

“I saw no meaning to change training venues because my life is open,” he explained.

“Our sport is not training in the gym, it is going outside to run. I walk in the streets freely.”

Kipchoge claims he “lost about 90%” of his friends amid the wrongful link to Kiptum’s accident and online abuse.

“It was really painful for me to learn even from my own people, my training mates, those who I have contact with, and the bad words are coming from them,” he added.

“I was really down to see that.”

This article was first published by BBC

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