The men’s marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum died on Sunday night in a road accident alongside his Rwandese coach Garvis Hakizimana.
The road crash, according to a police report, occurred at around 11pm at Kaptagat area along Elgeyo Marakwet-Ravine road. Both Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot due to the impact of the self-involved accident.
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Kiptum rose to prominence in the world of athletics after registering the fastest marathon debut in Valencia in 2022.
He made a breakthrough in 2023 as a rival to his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, considered as one of the greatest marathon runners.
And it was in Chicago last year in October that Kiptum bettered Kipchoge’s achievement, clocking the 42kilometre marathon in two hours and 35 seconds.
The two athletes had been named in Kenya’s provisional marathon team for the Paris Olympics later this year.
Kiptum was among a new crop of Kenyan athletes who began their careers on the road, breaking away from the past tradition of athletes starting on the track before switching to longer distances.
He competed in his first major competition four years earlier running in borrowed shoes as he could not afford a pair of his own.
His coach, Hakizimana, 36, was a retired Rwandese runner. Last year, he spent months helping Kiptum target the world record.
Kiptum’s world marathon mark was ratified last week by the international track federation World Athletics, and was preparing to open his new season at the Rotterdam Marathon on April 14 this year before joining the Kenyan team for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Leaders including President William Ruto, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, opposition leader Raila Odinga and others on Monday led the world in mourning the great athlete.
Ruto hailed Kiptum as a star and arguably one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record.
“He was only 24 yet, as a hero, triumphed in Valencia, Chicago, London and other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future.”
“An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark on the globe. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting fraternity. Rest In Peace,” Ruto said.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said Kiptum was an astounding star who flew the Kenyan flag extremely high.
“His World Record of 2 hrs 35 seconds was just ratified a few days ago making this loss even more painful. At only 24 years old, he was set to push himself even higher during the coming Rotterdam Marathon in April, where he was expected to attempt to run under 2 hours,” Gachagua said.
Odinga, said the country had lost “a true hero” and was mourning “a remarkable individual… and Kenyan athletics icon”.
Coe tweeted: “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.”