Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, the young Kenyan who’s taken the long-distance running world by storm in recent years, has died, his family has confirmed. He was only 24.
Kiptum and his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, died in a car accident on Monday (AEDT).
The tragedy occurred on a road between the towns of Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, according to Kenyan runner Milcah Chemos.
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Chemos said she was among a group of athletes who went to the hospital in Eldoret after hearing the news. Family members of Kiptum were also there to identify his body, Chemos said.
There was also a lady in the car called Sharon Chepkirui Kosgei, who was taken to hospital with serious injuries, according to African publication Nation.
After twice clocking two hours and one minute for the marathon, in 2022 and 2023, Kiptum shattered Kenyan icon Eliud Kipchoge’s world record by smashing the 2023 Chicago Marathon in 2:00:35. Kipchoge’s world record was 2:01:09.
World Athletics ratified Kiptum’s world record just five days ago.
Two months earlier, he had taken out World Athletics’ World Athlete of the Year men’s out-of-stadia award.
Kiptum’s breathtaking rise to marathon superstardom, and Kipchoge’s sustained brilliance in his late 30s, had set up a highly anticipated Paris Olympics showdown between possibly the two greatest marathon runners in history.
Kiptum, born in Kenya’s Keiyo District in 1999, had established himself as the man most likely to become the first athlete to officially crack the two-hour mark. Kipchoge ran 1:59:40 in Vienna in 2019, but a raft of factors, including a rotating cast of pacemakers and laser lights beaming from a car ahead, meant his time didn’t count as a world record.
Kiptum had been locked in for April’s Rotterdam Marathon, in which he was going to attempt to break the two-hour barrier.
Former Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga said the news of Kiptum’s death was « devastating » and described the Nike-sponsored superstar as a « remarkable individual ».
Gideon Kimaiyo, a Kenyan member of parliament, wrote: « It is with heavy hearts that we learn of the passing of Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, and his coach in a tragic accident along the Eldoret-Kaptagat road. Kelvin Kiptum was at the prime of his career, a legend in his own right. It’s a tough one to take ».
World-renowned American running coach and author Steve Magness wrote: « This is shocking and devastating. World record holder in the marathon, in the prime of his career, tragically passes away … An absolute tragedy ».
Kenyan running royalty Paul Tergat posted: « I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn [of] the passing of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana. My condolences to the families, friends, athletic fraternity and Kenya at large. This is a huge loss ».
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe wrote: « On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation ».
Coe described Kiptum’s world record as « extraordinary » and said he was an « incredible athlete » who had left an « incredible legacy ».
Tributes are flooding in. A selection of them have been collated below: