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FILE PHOTO: Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum celebrates winning the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in Chicago, Illinois, in a world record time of two hours and 35 seconds on October 8, 2023. /CFP

Kelvin Kiptum joins list of tragic athlete deaths

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Kenyan world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum will be laid to rest at a state event on Friday in his village in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet, in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

A road crash on February 11 in Kaptagat in western Kenya tragically cut short the 24-year-old’s life but also ended a nascent career that promised so much so early on.

It was only in October last year that Kiptum recorded a time of 2:00:35 in the Chicago Marathon to break the previous world record set by compatriot Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09) in September 2022.

This year, Kiptum had set his eyes on another world record attempt in Rotterdam in April, and he also targeted a gold medal the Olympic Games in Paris in August.

But his untimely death ended all those dreams even before, many will argue, Kiptum hit his peak.

Several sportsmen and women on the continent have also had their lives tragically cut short in their prime. CGTN Africa takes a look at some of them.

Marc-Vivien Foé (Cameroon, footballer)

FILE PHOTO: Rigobert Song (right) and Samuel Eto’o (left) of Cameroon hold a picture of team-mate and friend Marc-Vivien Foe who tragically died on the pitch during the FIFA Confederations Cup semifinal. /CFP

Cameroon midfielder Foé died while playing for Cameroon at the FIFA Confederations Cup in June 2003. The 28-year-old collapsed on a field during the semifinal against Colombia in Lyon, France. Foé famously played for Lyon and Lens in France and Manchester City and West Ham in England. The cause of Foé’s death was found to be a cardiac arrest from an undiagnosed heart condition, which was discovered after the incident. Foé was buried in Yaoundé with full military honours, and City and Lens went on to retire the shirt numbers 23 and 17, respectively, that he wore for them.

Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya, long-distance runner)

FILE PHOTO: Samuel Wanjiru won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. /CFP

Wanjiru died in May 2011 from injuries sustained after falling from a balcony at his home in Nyahururu in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Like Kiptum, Wanjiru was also aged 24 at the time of his death. Wanjiru shot to fame after becoming Kenya’s first Olympic marathon champion at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He also won multiple marathons while setting a number of course records. There were contradicting reports about the cause of Wanjiru’s death. However, an inquest into the matter ruled out murder and suicide as the cause of death.

Senzo Meyiwa (South Africa, footballer)

FILE PHOTO: A picture of the funeral service of the late Senzo Meyiwa (South African and Orlando Pirates captain) at Moses Mabhida Stadium on November 01, 2014 in Durban, South Africa. /CFP

Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, 27, was killed in October 2014 while visiting his girlfriend in Vosloorus, south-east of Johannesburg. Meyiwa was an instrumental player in Pirates reaching the 2013 CAF Champions League final, which they lost to Al Ahly. Meyiwa’s killing triggered outrage over South Africa’s high crime and murder rates. Following a lengthy investigation, five men were accused of the murder and went on trial. In 2022, Netflix released a documentary titled Senzo: Murder of a Soccer Star, which attempted to reconstruct what happened on that fateful night.

Cheick Tioté (Cote d’Ivoire, footballer)

FILE PHOTO: Cheick Tioté during a past training session. /CFP

Tioté collapsed during a training session with the Chinese League One side Beijing Enterprises, just weeks before his 31st birthday. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital where he had been rushed to for treatment. Tioté famously played for Premier League side Newcastle United for six seasons before his move to China, and also represented his country 52 times.

Agnes Tirop (Kenya, long-distance runner)

FILE PHOTO: Agnes Tirop of Kenya won two bronze medals at the World Athletics Championships. /CFP

Tirop’s death in October 2021 came barely weeks after she set a new world record in the women-only 10km race in Germany. Tirop was found stabbed to death at her home in Iten. Regarded as one of the world’s most promising athletes, Tirop was also a double bronze medallist at the World Athletics Championships and finished fourth at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Her husband, Ibrahim Rotich was arrested and charged in connection with her murder. The 25-year-old athlete’s killing kicked off a movement against gender-based violence.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

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