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I Feared For My Children Lives, Eliud Kipchoge On How Internet Speculations Impacted His Life

Kipchoge was overwhelmed by emotion during a candid interview at his home in Eldoret when he talked about the impact the abuse campaign had on his mother.

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Two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge says in an interview with the BBC that he feared for the life of his family and that he was sacrificed to an online hate campaign in which he was wrongly linked to the death of fellow Kenyan marathon runner Kelvin Kiptum.

Kelvin Kiptum

Kiptum, the world record holder who was on point Kipchoge’s dominance on the marathon definitive over the taking died at the age of 24 from the consequences of a car accident in February.Some social media users began to speculate that Kipchoge was part of a conspiracy to kill Kiptum. Kiptum improved Kipchoge’s world record marathon in Chicago last October and put it at a wee hour and 35 seconds.

Family and family threatened

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‘I was shocked that people on social media platforms claimed ‘Eliud is involved in the death of this boy,” said 39-year-old Kipchoge.. That was the worst news ever in my life.” I have received many bad things; that they will set the training camp on fire, that they will burn my investments in the city, that they will burn my house, that they will burn my family.” It didn’t happen, but that’s just how the world is put together.”

Kipchoge’s first reaction when he saw the abuse and the false rumors was to see if his family was safe. “I don’t have the power to go to the police and tell them that my life is in danger. So I wanted to tell my family to be extra careful,” he said.

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“I started calling a lot of people. I really feared that my children would go to school and not come back.” Sometimes they cycle around, but we had to stop them because you never know what will happen. We went to take them to school and pick them up again.” My daughter is at boarding school – that was positive that she didn’t have access to social media – but it’s hard for my boys to hear ‘Your father killed someone’.”

Mother

Kipchoge was overwhelmed by emotion during a candid interview at his home in Eldoret when he talked about the impact the abuse campaign had on his mother. “My worst moment was when I tried to call my mother,” he said.

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“She said to me ‘Be careful’ and ‘A lot has happened’. Where I come from is a real outland. That my mother already knew about the threats hit me hard and I realized that social media has influence everywhere. But she gave me courage. It was a really tough month.”

Lost ninety percent of friends

However, Kipchoge, who only became the third person to win consecutive Olympic marathons when he defended his title in Tokyo in 2021, decided not to take precautions for his own safety. “I saw no reason to change training location because my life is transparent,” he explained.

“Our sport is not exercising in the gym, but going outside to run. I walk freely on the street.”

Kipchoge claims he lost ‘about 90%’ of his friends due to the wrong link to Kiptum’s accident and online abuse.

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“It was really painful for me to hear even negative words from my own people, my training mates, those I contacted. I was really depressed when I experienced that.”

Poor performance in Tokyo

Kipchoge’s team decided to remove him from social media in the aftermath of the hate campaign, but he said he never considered deleting his accounts.” If I delete my accounts, it shows that I’m hiding something,” he said. “I will keep accounts I haven’t done anything.”

However, he believes the abuse of social media has affected his performance during the Tokyo marathon. Kipchoge finished 10th during the Tokyo Marathon on March 3, his worst finish since his debut in 2013.

He crossed the line more than two and a half minutes behind the winner Benson Kipruto. “When I was in Tokyo, I didn’t sleep for three days,” he revealed. “It was my worst final standings ever.”

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Olympic marathon

Despite that setback, he was included in Kenya’s marathon team for the Paris 2024 Olympics last Wednesday and is now focusing on writing more history at the Games if he wants to win a third gold medal in a row.

“It’s about getting up and going straight again, towards your goal,” added Kipchoge, who became the first person to run a marathon under two hours in 2019, albeit under controlled conditions in Vienna.

“I want to go into the history books, be the first person to win the Olympic marthon three times in a row.”

Dangerous

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Kipchoge has himself been the victim of harassment and threats and believes that social media companies are ‘not doing much’ to prevent abuse on their platforms. “These faceless people post bad things and are really dangerous,” he said.

“If you report some accounts, it will take a while before they delete those accounts. They need to act quickly, collect the facts, and delete accounts. People need to know that if you say something that is not right, your account will be deleted.”

However, Kipchoge has welcomed an announcement from the International Olympic Committee that it plans to “react proactively and on a large scale” to protect athletes from online abuse during Paris 2024. The IOC plans to use artificial intelligence, to help recognize offensive messages and report them to social media companies.” I think that’s the right method,” said Kipchoge.

Trust

But for Kipchoge, it’s already too late to prevent the emotional scars he’s suffered.” I’ve learned that friendship can’t be forever,” he said. I’m sorry this happened at the moment I’ve been active in the sport for over 20 years.” What happened has made me not trust anyone anymore. I don’t even trust my own shadow.”

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