Kiptum, who burst onto the marathon scene in October, was the overwhelming favorite to win the Paris Olympics.
Kelvin Kiptum, Kenya’s world record marathon runner, has died in a car accident.
The death of the 24-year-old, who was driving in western Kenya on Sunday evening when his car overturned, has shocked the athletics world.
Kiptum lost control of the vehicle and the young runner and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana, were killed on the spot, a local police officer said. A female passenger who suffered injuries was urgently sent to the hospital.
Kiptum burst onto the marathon scene when he ran a world record 2:00:35 in Chicago in October, knocking 34 seconds off fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge’s previous record.
He was only 23 years old at the time and competing in only his third marathon. Kiptum also won his other two races: his debut in Valencia in 2022 and a follow-up in London next year.
The Kenyan had announced that he would attempt to become the first man to run an official marathon under two hours in Rotterdam on April 14.
Kiptum was the overwhelming favorite to take the gold medal at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.
Tributes poured in following the news of Kiptum’s death.
World Athletics remembered him as “one of the most exciting young 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 of World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to the families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.”
We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.
On behalf of all of World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to the families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.
It was just earlier this week in… pic.twitter.com/dDBKgjXNKL
— Seb Coe (@sebcoe) February 11, 2024
Coe said only last week that he had been in Chicago “to officially ratify” Kiptum’s record.
“An incredible athlete who leaves an incredible legacy, he will be sorely missed.”
Two-time Kenyan 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.
Australia’s former world champion marathon runner Robert de Castella also paid tribute to the athlete.
“Shocking tragedy! Just like that, a rising superstar is gone. It highlights how precious life is and how vulnerable we all are,” de Castella said.
Kiptum hailed from Chepkorio, a village in the Rift Valley that is the heart of Kenyan distance running and where his death ultimately occurred.
Ten years ago, barely a teenager, he herded goats and sheep and then began following Hakizimana, who is from Rwanda, and other runners as they trained in the legendary high-altitude region.
So far in 2019, Kiptum has run 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 hit.
Kiptum’s death is the latest in a saga of tragedies to hit Kenya’s young athletics.
In 2011, marathon great Samuel Wanjiru died at the same age after winning the Olympic title in 2008 in Beijing.
According to a pathologist, Wanjiru was killed by a blow to the head with a sharp object.
In 2021, long-distance running star Agnes Tirop was found stabbed to death at the age of 25 at her home in Iten, near Eldoret.
Her husband Ibrahim Rotich went on trial for her murder in November last year. He denied the charge and was released on bail shortly before the trial.