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Eliud Kipchoge feared for children’s safety after vicious trolling over Kelvin Kiptum death

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge during an interview
Eliud Kipchoge was the marathon world record holder until Kelvin Kiptum bettered his time in October 2023 - Reuters/Stephanie Lecocq

Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge says he was left fearing for his children and unable to trust “even my own shadow” following unfounded online abuse linking him to the death of world record holder Kelvin Kiptum.

The two Kenyans had been expected to race head-to-head for the first time at the Paris Olympics this summer, when Kipchoge is going for an unprecedented third straight gold, but Kiptum was killed in February in a car accident.

People on social media then began spreading wild conspiracy theories and in an interview with BBC Africa, Kipchoge revealed the huge impact that this had on him.

“I was shocked that people [on] social media platforms are saying ‘Eliud is involved in the death of this boy’,” he said.

“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.

“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. It’s tough for my boys to hear: ‘Your dad has killed somebody’.”

Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya celebrates after winning the 2023 Chicago Marathon professional men's division and setting a world record marathon time of 2:00.35 at Grant Park on October 08, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois
Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya celebrates after winning the 2023 Chicago Marathon professional men's division and setting a world record marathon time of 2:00.35 at Grant Park on October 08, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois

Kipchoge said that the worst moment was discovering that his mother was even aware of the online abuse, but that he has refused to take any special precautions for himself and continues to train out on the roads near Eldoret in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

He also revealed he had lost friends because of the fallout and that he could not sleep before the Tokyo Marathon in March, when he came only 10th – more than four minutes behind compatriot Benson Kipruto. Kipchoge has since been selected with Kipruto and London Marathon winner Alexander Munyao in the three-man Kenyan Olympic team.

“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,” Kipchoge said.

“I learned that friendship cannot be forever. I think it’s unfortunate that it happened when I’m celebrating over 20 years in sport.

“What happened has [made] me not trust anybody. Even my own shadow. Faceless people are posting bad things and are really dangerous. They [the social media companies] should act fast, get the facts, delete accounts.”

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