Kelvin Kiptum
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Kelvin Kiptum Commemorative Limited Edition watch unveiled ahead of Rotterdam Marathon

Amazfit Cheetah Pro, the Kelvin Kiptum Commemorative edition watch that was launched in Rotterdam on April 13, 2024, ahead of Rotterdam Marathon.

Photo credit: Pool

Dominic Walknowski was furious when he received a text message from his young daughter on the morning of Monday, February 12, this year.

“Stop joking,” he admonished the poor little girl whose “joke” was sending her father the screenshot of a breaking news story announcing the tragic death of Kenyan marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum.

“For two hours, after the reality dawned on me that it was indeed true, my mind was blank,” Walknowski told the in an interview at the Rotterdam Marathon Expo here on Saturday, on the sidelines of Sunday’s big race in the Dutch port city.

“Kelvin Kiptum? No way!” he added, reflectively.

“He wasn’t meant to die!”

Kiptum, who set the world marathon at an incredible two hours and 35 seconds, died in a car crash on the night of February 11 on the Kaptagat-Eldoret road.

He was 24, and perished alongside his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, with another passenger, Sharon Kosgei, surviving the crash.

Walknowski is the Public Relations and Marketing Manager at sports watch company Amazfit and was in the back-end of the development of a special sports watch modelled around Kiptum.

The “Amazfit Cheetah Pro” was developed by Amazfit to rival leading brands in the sports watch industry.

Kelvin Kiptum

Amazfit Cheetah Pro, the Kelvin Kiptum Commemorative edition watch that was launched in Rotterdam on April 13, 2024, ahead of Rotterdam Marathon.

Photo credit: Elias Makori | Nation Media Group

On Friday, here in Rotterdam, Amazfit launched a limited edition “Kelvin Kiptum Commemorative edition” watch to commemorate his world record, 2:00:35 run, and a glittering career nipped in the bud.

Only 235 units have been produced, and are retailing at a price of the magical number, $235 (about Sh30,500).

Kiptum’s widow Asenath Rotich fought back tears as she was presented with the first watch from the limited edition by Leon Deng, the Chief Financial Officer at Zepp Health, Amazfit’s parent company.

“We made this special edition Kelvin Kiptum Cheetah Pro in his memory… our deepest condolences to you and the family,” Deng said as he presented the watch to Kiptum’s widow.

“It’s an honour to present you with the first watch of this series.

“The reason we signed Kelvin is because he was seen as the person who would break the limits. Hopefully the other athletes will break the limit and challenge the two-hour barrier that Kelvin wanted to break,” he added.

Deng also announced that his company would donate $100,000 (about Sh13 million) to the Kelvin Kiptum Foundation to support the fallen star’s family and his dependents, including the several athletes he supported.

Organisers of today’s NN Rotterdam Marathon had earlier launched the Kelvin Kiptum Foundation with a donation of 50,000 Euros (about Sh7 million), representing one Euro from each of the 50,000 runners registered for today’s race.

We might just never know the full impact Kiptum had on the global running community, and the world at large, the impact beyond his pool-playing friends in his small hometown of Chepkorio, in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

Venturing into the entertainment places in downtown Rotterdam on Friday night, almost everyone I spoke to knew of Kiptum.

“Habari!” a comely lady approached me, having spotted my Magical Kenya cap.

“I was at Kerio View Hotel in Iten with my wife! Beautiful place!,” she says.

Wife? Story for another day.

Suddenly there’s a crowd milling around my strategic spot at the bar counter, staring at my phone as I revisited videos from Kiptum’s burial that was televised live on NTV.

The barman quips that he plans a visit to Kenya soon, and then a Mt Kilimanjaro climb in next door Tanzania, in honour of Kiptum.

Kelvin Kiprum

Amazfit Cheetah Pro, the Kelvin Kiptum Commemorative edition watch that was launched in Rotterdam on April 13, 2024, ahead of Rotterdam Marathon.

Photo credit: Elias Makori | Nation Media Group

As we watch the clips, a club bouncer approaches and informs me that it’s peak club hour at the club, and club rules, very much like our “country club etiquette” demand that I remove my cap, and jacket, and deposit them at the cloakroom next to the entrance.

I oblige, at a cost of two Euros (about Sh280) for the jacket and cap deposit.

A few beers later, I need to visit the gents.

Hang on! It’s not free, as you have to pay one euro (Sh140) to empty your bladder.

Meaning if you walk into the pub with a cap and jacket, and opt to visit the washrooms before even settling down to order a drink, you will have already have parted with Sh420 for your comfort, with a glass of draft beer selling at 7.50 Euros (Sh1,050).

The pub conversation and also street, office talk in Rotterdam is very much around Kiptum, with a minute’s silence to be observed ahead of Sunday’s race in which all the 50,000 runners will wear a black ribbon in honour of the Kenyan legend.

Treasury Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo, who is also a member of Kiptum’s family, will head the Kenyan delegation at Sunday’s race alongside Kenya’s Ambassador to The Netherlands, Mrs Margaret Shava, and World Athletics Vice President Lt. Gen. (rtd) Jackson Tuwei who is also the Athletics Kenya President.

Amazfit Cheetah Pro

Amazfit Cheetah Pro, the Kelvin Kiptum Commemorative edition watch that was launched in Rotterdam on April 13, 2024, ahead of Rotterdam Marathon.

Photo credit: Elias Makori | Nation Media Group

Belgian sports management company, Golazo, are organisers of today’s Rotterdam Marathon whose lead sponsor is Dutch financial services company, NN Group.

Golazo CEO and founder Bob Verbeeck announced here that initial meetings of the Kelvin Kiptum Foundation will be held on the sidelines of Sunday’s race to plan how the late athlete’s special fund will be administered.

“The objective of the foundation is to support the family and at the same time provide support the education of youngsters in the Chepkorio region as Kelvin was doing himself,” Verbeeck, whose company also managed Kiptum’s professional career, explained.

“The foundation will also provide support for athletes from that (Chepkorio) area and it will be chaired by the President of Athletics Kenya who is also the Vice President of World Athletics Lt. Gen. (rtd) Jackson Tuwei, members of the family and one representative of the family.

“The objective is not to have a one-off charity, but to have a foundation that will last for many years to come,” added Verbeeck whose Golazo company is also organizing next Saturday’s Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour Gold track and field meeting at the Nyayo National Stadium.

The meeting will be live on NTV.

Kelvin Kiptum

An image of Kenya's late world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum is displayed on the screen at the press conference held at the Hilton Rotterdam Hotel on April 13, 2024.  

Photo credit: Pool

Tuwei offered words of encouragement to the Kenyan athletes competing in Rotterdam today, including four women and six men, led by 2023 and 2022 Eindhoven Marathon champions, respectively, Kenneth Kipkemoi and Pascalia Jepkogei.

Kenyan-born Bahraini athlete Rose Chelimo, the 2017 world marathon champion, is also in the mix on Sunday in this Dutch port city.

“We are still mourning Kiptum who had indicated that he would run a sub-two hour race here in Rotterdam…,” said Tuwei.

“That was going to be history in marathon running, but now, unfortunately, he is no longer with us… we say pole to the family, athletes and the family at large, but we thank God for the short time he was with us.

Kelvin Kiptum

A special, limited edition “Cheetah Pro” sports watch launched on Friday ahead of April 14 Rotterdam Marathon in honour of Kenya’s late world marathon record Kelvin Kiptum.

Photo credit: Elias Makori | Nation Media Group

“We are grateful to the sports community in Europe, and to Golazo for doing something to ensure that his legacy continues. We are also grateful to His Excellency the President Dr William Ruto, and the Government of the Republic of Kenya for the national send-off and for having houses constructed for the family of Kiptum and for his father.”

The sensei, double Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge threw down the gauntlet with his rallying call that “no human is limited.”

This after his first-man-on-the moon moment of becoming the first human to dip under two hours in a marathon, clocking 1:59:40 at the famous, bespoke and well-choreographed “INEOS 1:59 Challenge” at Prater Park in Vienna on October 12, 2019.

Then Kiptum took up the challenge, running 2:00:35 in Chicago last October and then declaring it was the foreplay before the main act today, April 14, 2024, where he had promised to win the Rotterdam Marathon in a sub-two hour time.

That wasn’t to following his tragic death on February 11.

But the sold-out field of 50,000 runners at Sunday’s race will run with the Kenyan champion in mind.

Organisers of the NN Rotterdam Marathon were forced to close entries hours after Kiptum announced his record attempt following a surge in registration.

They were left with 30,000 runners on their waiting list.

So high is the demand for Sunday’s race that on Saturday, some runners were seen selling their race entries for prices of as much as 2,000 Euros (about Sh277,000)!

Such was Kiptum’s appeal to the global running community.