Kiptum, who exploded onto the marathon scene in October, was the overwhelming favourite to win the Paris Olympics.
Kelvin Kiptum, Kenya’s world record-holding marathon runner, has died in a car crash.
The death of the 24-year-old, who was driving in western Kenya on Sunday evening when his car rolled over, has left the world of athletics in shock.
Kiptum lost control of the vehicle, and the young running sensation and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana, were killed on the spot, a local police officer said. A female passenger who sustained injuries was rushed to the hospital.
Kiptum 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. Kiptum also won his other two races: 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.
Kiptum was the overwhelming favourite to take the gold 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 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.”
We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.
On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.
It was only earlier this week in… pic.twitter.com/dDBKgjXNKL
— Seb Coe (@sebcoe) February 11, 2024
Coe said only last week he had been in Chicago “to officially ratify” Kiptum’s record.
“An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”
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.
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. 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 heartland of Kenyan distance running, and where ultimately his death occurred.
Ten years ago, barely a teen, 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.
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.
Kiptum’s death is the latest in a saga of tragedies to hit Kenya’s young athletics hopefuls.
In 2011, marathon great Samuel Wanjiru died at the same age after capturing the Olympic title in 2008 in Beijing.
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.