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Kiptum’s Accident And The Botched Shoe Deal With A Chinese Firm



The late Kelvin Kiptum.

Four unknown men walked into Kelvin Kiptum’s home in Chepsamo village, Elgeyo Marakwet for a specific reason. According to the father they introduced themselves as visitors from the big house implying State House. As it would later come to light, the four were agents of Chinese shoe company Qiaodan Sports that Kiptum had signed a contract with prior and they were doing a follow up and deal brokering after the athlete dropped the brand.

Four days later after this meeting, Kiptum died in a mysterious road accident. Kiptum’s father, Samson Cheruiyot broke down in tears during a media interview as several family members surrounded him. The father asked for an investigation to be opened and is asked for answers.

Samson Cheruiyot claims that four strangers came to his house asking for Kiptum and that they must have been evasive about what the purpose was.

“They said they wanted to get hold of him, and now that this has happened, I wonder what they were looking for at the time. What did they want from my son? They refused to identify themselves, says Cheruiyot according to The Times.

Directorate of Criminal Investigations detectives arrested and questioned them to establish the nature and motive of their visit, after Kiptum’s father, Samson Cheruiyot raised an alarm. Leaders from the region and parliament had called for a probe into the death with a general belief that there was a foul play.

However, the men, who were described as strangers to the family by Mr Kiptum’s father, said they were not strangers to the family as the business talks have been ongoing. Begging the question as to why the father would have changed his tune and when more worrying is the nature of the negotiations that would raise his suspicions to link the visits to the accident.

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Speaking after grilling by detectives in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, the two former Uasin Gishu MCAs and two businessmen confirmed that they visited the athlete’s home to discuss a business deal as agents of the Chinese firm.

Details have now emerged about their mission to the late Kiptum’s home.

The four men reportedly sought out Kiptum to discuss the particulars of a Ksh.45 million contract signed between the late marathoner and the Chinese company.

The athlete had opted to pay back the Chinese company, but the company was only interested in having the athlete fulfill his contractual obligation and not a legal battle so they sent the four to negotiate a deal.

“The Chinese company was to supply sports equipment to Kiptum to be used during the Chicago marathon and it is alleged that Kiptum opted to use a different brand (Nike) and not the Chinese brand as agreed,” Elgeyo Marakwet CCIO Joshua Chelal said.

“Therefore Qiaodan Sports were aggrieved and sent the four men to negotiate whether they could be compensated or whether they would be given another opportunity to supply Kiptum equipment for the forthcoming Rotterdam race slated for April 2024.”

Botched Deal

British The Times writes that Qiaodan Sports and Kiptum are said to have been in a dispute over a contract worth around Sh45 million.

The Chinese claimed they had an agreement with Kiptum, but the Kenyan ran with Nike, with whom he had a favorable contract.

Before the London Marathon, Qiaodan Sports appeared at Kiptum’s hotel and claimed a contract was in place, according to the newspaper.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan has also been in trouble with Qiaodan Sports. Photo: Kin Cheung / AP / NTB

Qiaodan Sports has previously been in litigation with basketball legend Michael Jordan, and was ordered to pay 54,000 dollars at the time. The reason is that the logo of Qiaodan Sports is similar to Nike’s Jordan collection. Qiaodan is a fairly shady brand. The brand name is Chinese pronunciation of Jordan (Michael) and the logo is a silhouette of Michael Jordan as well.

Quiodan and Nike don’t get along very well. Quiodan is the phonetic transcription of Jordan in Chinese and they have been fighting in court for years. The logo doesn’t help either.

After the feat of Valencia, the Chinese brand Qiaodan keen to leverage on his glory offered a Sh45 million contract to the athlete to dress and equip him, trying this way to enter road athletics and lay the foundations of a sports project that was going to have Kiptum as a great ambassador. The athlete, through his representative Marc Corstjens, accepted the offer and signed the contract on January 15, 2023.

He becomes a poster boy for the Chinese brand.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly: Kiptum had signed the contract, had collected it and had begun to use the material of the Chinese brand while preparing for the 2023 London Marathon

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But something happens, Kiptum after wider consultation realizes he got the shorter arm of the deal and felt exploited having been just new in the industry and only starting to make money as a professional athlete and assumingely naive, Kiptum silently boycotts the brand and cancels the deal with Qiaodan. Kiptum had struck a better deal with an anericanprofessional sports company.

However, tensions arose when Kiptum, amidst preparations for the prestigious London Marathon, seemingly disappeared just days before the event.

Qiaodon representatives, who had traveled to Kenya to accompany their sponsored athlete, found themselves unable to reach Kiptum, raising concerns about his commitment to the sponsorship agreement.

The situation took a dramatic turn when, at the London Marathon, Kiptum appeared clad in Nike apparel, contradicting his contractual obligations with Qiaodon.

Qiaodon, understandably dismayed by Kiptum’s actions, is reportedly contemplating legal action against the Kenyan athlete.

According to a demand letter dated 23rd April 2023 seen by Kenya Insights, Zhongqiao Sports Company Limited, the makers of the shoes are threatening to sue Kiptum over the alleged breach.

Copies of the demand letter to Kiptum.

Despite the threats of litigation, Kiptum stood his ground and dumped the Chinese company. And according to the police in Kenya report, he was willing to refund the company its money but they were reluctant and perhaps in a desperate situation, the firm was still determined and keen to have Kelvin onboard that they sent their agents to try convince him to accept the deal. With Kiptum holding a world marathon record, the subsequent races would give the company the much needed mileage. It is the desperate attempts to convince Kiptum into accepting the Chinese contract that got them in this whole circus of a tragic accident.

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A preliminary report by investigators on the vehicle in which Kiptum and his coach died has ruled out any mechanical problems.

“The examiner said there was no pre-accident evidence of a mechanical breakdown, which means it had good breaks, tyres, lights, etc,” police said.

However, other aspects of the accident investigation were ongoing, he said.

For the Olympics in Paris this summer, it was expected that Kiptum against Eliud Kipchoge in the marathon would be one of the biggest highlights.

Kelvin Kiptum is one of many from Kenya who has reached the top of the world in running. Running gives high status in the home country.

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Kenya West is a trained investigative independent journalist and a socio-political commentator on matters Kenya and Africa. Do you have a story, Scandal you want me to write on? Send me tips to [[email protected]]


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