Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Iten, Kenya — As Faith Kipyegon clinches her third gold medal in the 1,500-meter event at the World Athletics Championships, Martin Tirop raises his fists in celebration. However, this moment is bittersweet for him, as Kipyegon’s success serves as a poignant reminder of his late sister, Agnes.

Agnes Tirop and the superstar Kipyegon had been junior running companions, both scrawny teenagers making their mark in the fiercely competitive Kenyan running scene, he reveals to CNN. “Watching her run and win feels like watching my sister. It evokes a mixture of emotions: pride, sorrow… I wish Agnes were still here; she would be in Budapest too, competing.”

Instead, on October 13, 2021, Martin Tirop made a horrifying discovery inside his sister’s three-bedroom home in Kenya’s distance running hub. Agnes had just returned from a race in Switzerland, but Martin recounts that he couldn’t reach her for days.

After alerting the authorities, he tells CNN that he visited her house and peered through a window, only to find her lifeless body lying in a pool of blood near her bedroom door.

She bore stab wounds on her neck and was attired in her Adidas sports bra and shorts. Martin believes she was likely preparing for a run when the attack occurred.

In the elite running sphere, Agnes had been a rising luminary. In September 2021, she broke the women’s 10km record in Germany, roughly a month after finishing fourth in the 5,000 meters at the Tokyo Olympics. She resided and trained in Iten, where, according to Martin, adoring fans would cheer her on as she cruised by in her white Toyota pickup, blaring gospel tunes.

Devastated neighbors congregated outside her residence, shedding tears as they watched the 25-year-old champion being wheeled away on a stretcher.

Nearly six months later, a similar tragedy unfolded barely 2 kilometers from her home.

Another runner, Damaris Mutua, was discovered strangled in a residence with a pillow covering her face. Mutua had recently secured third place in a half marathon in Angola. She had previously won a bronze medal at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics.

Investigators considered Agnes Tirop’s husband a suspect, while in Mutua’s case, her boyfriend emerged as the primary suspect.

Iten, an enchanting town nestled nearly 2,400 meters (about 8,000 feet) above sea level and a renowned training hub for long-distance runners, suddenly found itself thrust into the global spotlight due to the brutal deaths of two female athletes, allegedly at the hands of their intimate partners.

These tragic incidents have shone a glaring spotlight on a pervasive yet often unspoken and unaddressed issue: domestic violence. “We’ve come to realize that female athletes are enduring silent suffering,” remarks Joan Chelimo, a long-distance runner who trains in Iten. “They needed to understand they are not alone and that they have rights too.”

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