Nairobi News

LifeMust ReadNewsSportsWhat's Hot

God give them strength: Family of Kiptum’s coach Gervais Hakizimana speaks

Gervais Hakizimana, a trailblazer in Rwandan athletics, who died in a road accident together with world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum in Kenya on February 11, was laid to rest in Rusororo public cemetery in Kigali on February 21.

A vehicle which World Marathon Record Holder Kelvin Kiptum,
A vehicle which World Marathon Record Holder Kelvin Kiptum, his Rwandese coach Garvais Hakizaman and another occupant were traveling in before they were involved in a road accident onon February 12, 2024. Photo|JARED NYATAYA

Family, friends, colleagues and high-ranking government officials from Rwanda and Kenya attended the ceremony that started at 2 pm Rwandan time (3 pm Kenyan time).

Christine Ntakirutimana, Hazikimana’s sister, who spoke on behalf of the family, thanked the government of Kenya for accompanying and supporting the family through the entire process of repatriating the body.

“We thank Joan Chelimo for loving our Gervais and making him a father, today we are saddened beyond words, but we are glad he left behind a child, all that thanks to you, we shall continue to be family and love you, dear Joan,” said Ntakirutimana, referring to Hakizimana’s widow.

Also read: More toxicology samples of Kelvin Kiptum taken for analysis – Pathologist

“Without a doubt, my brother is in heaven, he left behind a good story.”

Gervais Hakizimana's funeral service.
Gervais Hakizimana’s funeral service. PHOTO| POOL

Another family member, who lived with Hakizimana as a young boy in Burundi, shared a poignant story of the coach.

“Many years ago when he was a boy under my care, Gervais told me that once he becomes rich, he will uplift all his family members, and to this day there is nothing his family needed which is within his means that he didn’t provide.

“Even when he was away from us, working, he always called us on the phone and supported us.”
The inconsolable widow said she had been with Gervais for 12 years, and in that time, they shared many joyous, fond memories.

She remembers him as a loving husband who “was the best any woman could hope for”.

“I’ve not yet come to terms with the fact that he is gone. People have been telling me to take heart, but it is too difficult. I don’t know how we shall manage with my little daughter without him,” said Chelimo.

“We had many plans for a beautiful future as a family.”

Also read: Kiptum’s last phone call before Manchester United beat Aston Villa

She shared how he asked her to be patient with him because he wanted to commit time to take Kiptum to the next level as an athlete, which would require him to spend some time away from his family.

“He asked me to be patient, that this is a sacrifice we had to make, he said he wanted to make Kenya proud and Rwanda proud, and that he was doing this for his family as well.”

Sports CS Ababu Namwamba consols the kin of Gervais Hakizimana. PHOTO| POOL

Hakizimana, who had been coaching Kiptum since 2019, until the young Kenyan athlete’s crowning moment when he broke the world marathon record with a time of 2 hours and 35seconds in Chicago last year, had his sights on the sub-two-hour milestone.

Kiptum was set to attempt the sub-two-hour marathon in a record-eligible race in Rotterdam in April.

“He was a very intelligent person, it is very difficult for me now to do anything going forward, because I sought his opinion on anything, my life is crushed,” said Chelimo.

Kenya’s Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba, who represented President William Ruto and the Kenyan government at the funeral, extended his condolences to the widow and Hakizimana’s family.

“Although Hakizimana was born in Rwanda, he was a child of East Africa, a child of Africa, and that’s why the whole of Kenya stands with you in mourning an incredible young man,” Namwamba said.

“I knew Hakizimana personally, I met him two days after Kiptum broke the world record, as I interacted with him, I knew he was a special man.”

“You could see it was a team made in heaven, theirs was beyond coach and trainee relationship, they were brothers.”

“We have two young men who exited the stage when the dance was just beginning,” he added.
Namwamba said the world was bracing itself for Kiptum’s sub-two-hour marathon attempt in Rotterdam.

“It is incredibly sad that this will not happen.”

Also read: Nuru Okanga criticises Ruto’s directive to build Kelvin Kiptum a house

Namwamba also announced that the government of Kenya will be donating Sh5 million (Rwf40 million) to support Hakizimana’s family.

In a similar show of solidarity and support to the bereaved family, Bob Verbeeck, the head of Golazo, the management Hakizimana worked under, pledged to support Chelimo.

“Outside of being a fantastic runner, he was an incredibly dedicated and disciplined coach.
“When I think of Gervais, I think of a kind, humble man. He always liked to work in the background. He didn’t want to take the spotlight, and that’s what a good coach does,” Verbeeck said.

“Today we honour an exceptional man, he will always be in our memory. He had a difficult life, but he always had a smile and was always gentle,” added a teary Verbeeck.