Kelvin Kiptum: Marathon world-record holder dies in car accident in Kenya

Kiptum, 24, was driving from Kaptagat to Eldoret on Sunday evening when the car rolled, killing the young sensation and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana

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The men's marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum died in a car crash in western Kenya, police said Monday.

Kiptum, 24, was driving from Kaptagat to Eldoret on Sunday evening when the car rolled, killing the young sensation and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana.

"The car had three occupants, two died on the spot, while one was taken to hospital. The two are Kiptum and his coach," said Peter Mulinge, police commander for Elgeyo Marakwet County in western Kenya where the accident occurred.

"It is Kiptum who was driving heading to Eldoret and the vehicle lost control and rolled, killing the two on the spot. A female passenger sustained injuries and has been rushed to hospital," he told reporters.

Kiptum was the latest in a long line of world-class runners out of Kenya. He exploded onto the marathon scene when he ran a world record 2:00:35 in Chicago in October, taking 34 seconds off fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge's previous record.

He was just 23 years old at the time, and competing in only his third marathon.

'Incredible athlete'

Kiptum also won his other two efforts, in his debut in Valencia in 2022 and a follow-up in London the following year.

The Kenyan had announced he would attempt to become the first man to run an official marathon under the two-hour mark in Rotterdam on April 14.

He was the overwhelming favourite for the men's marathon race at the Paris 2024 Olympics this summer.

World Athletics remembered Kiptum as "one of the most exciting new prospects to emerge in road running in recent years".

"We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana," World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement.

"On behalf of all World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation."

Coe said only last week he had been in Chicago "to officially ratify" Kiptum's historic time.

"An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly."

Tributes pour in

Kenyan two-time Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the news.

"This is a huge loss," he posted on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Athletics Kenya extended condolences to "the entire athletics community during this difficult time".

President of Kenya William Ruto said Kiptum was a "star" who broke down barriers.

"He was only 24 yet, as a hero, triumphed in Valencia, Chicago, London and in other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future.

"An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark in the globe. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting fraternity. Rest In Peace."

Kenya's sports minister Ababu Namwamba said the country had lost a "special gem".

Humble beginnings

Kiptum hailed from Chepkorio, a village in the Rift Valley that is the heartland of Kenyan distance running, and where ultimately his death occurred.

Ten years ago, barely a teen, he herded goats and sheep then began following Hakizimana and other runners as they trained in the legendary high-altitude region.

By 2019, Kiptum ran two half-marathons in two weeks, going 60:48 in Copenhagen and 59:53 in Belfort, France. He began training with Hakizimana, who stayed in Kenya when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Tragedy strikes another Kenyan athlete

Kiptum's death is the latest in a saga of tragedies to hit Kenya's young athletics hopefuls.

In 2011, Kenyan marathon great Samuel Wanjiru died at the same age after capturing the Olympic title in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.

According to a pathologist, Wanjiru was killed from being hit on the head with a blunt object.

In 2021, long-distance running star Agnes Tirop was found stabbed to death at the age of 25 at her house in Iten, near Eldoret.

Her husband Ibrahim Rotich went on trial for her murder in November last year. He has denied the charge and was freed on bail just before the trial opened.

Updated: February 12, 2024, 6:04 AM