Kelvin Kiptum, the men’s marathon world record holder, has died aged 24 in a road accident in Kenya.
Kiptum and his Rwandese coach Garvais Hakizimana died in the collision, confirmed Abbott World Marathon Majors and Elgeyo Marakwet police.
The incident occured in the Kaptagat area on Sunday evening along Elgeyo Marakwet road. Kiptum won the London Marathon last year and would go on to break compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s world record at the Chicago Marathon in October in 2:00:35.
Kenyan athlete, Milcah Chemos, confirmed the deaths to the Associated Press after attending the hospital mortuary. While Joan Chelimo, the wife of Hakiziman, also confirmed the death of her husband to Olympics.com.
Kiptum was due to run this year’s Rotterdam Marathon in April, in what was promoted as an attempt to break the two-hour barrier in an official race for the first time following Kipchoge’s unofficial run in 1:59:40.2 in Vienna in 2019.
World Athletics president Seb Coe paid tribute to Kiptum: “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 Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon World Record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time. An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”
Kipchoge, the Kenyan great whose marathon record Kiptum broke in Chicago, paid tribute to his compatriot.
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic passing of the marathon world record holder and rising star Kelvin Kiptum,” Kipchoge said in a post on social media.
“An athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achive incredible greatness. May I offer my deepest condolences to his young family.”
Event director of the London Marathon, Hugh Brasher, said in a statement: “Kelvin had the sport of marathon running in his feet and at his feet. He was a ‘once in a generation’ athlete who was set to redefine the boundaries of our sport.
“Three marathons, three wins. The fastest marathon debutant in Valencia, London’s course record holder and the world record holder in Chicago, all within the space of less than 12 months.
“His was a flame that burned so bright and last night was tragically put out.”
Police added that Kiptum was the driver and the vehicle “lost control and rolled, killing the two on the spot”. A third passenger, who was female, was injured, AFP reported.
Kiptum, a father-of-two, made his marathon debut in 2022, four years after competing in his first major competition, where he was forced to borrow shoes due to economic reasons, commenting later to the BBC: “I had no money to travel to track sessions.”
Kiptum sparked a trend among Kenyan athletes to begin their careers on the road, moving away from athletes such as Kipchoge, who initially shot to fame on the track.
Elgeyo Marakwet police commander Peter Mulinge confirmed the tragic news in a statement: “This was a self-involved accident where one Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, was driving his vehicle with two passengers.
“Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot and the third person was rushed to Racecourse Hospital in Eldoret.”
Former Kenyan Prime Minister said: “Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual, Kelvin Kiptum, World Record holder and Kenyan athletics icon. Together with his coach, they tragically passed on in an accident tonight.
“My deepest condolences to his loved ones, friends, and the entire athletics fraternity. Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”
Hakizimana, 36, began coaching Kiptumin 2018, having met many years earlier: “I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefooted.
“It was in 2009, I was training near his father’s farm, he’d come kicking at my heels and I would chase him away. Now, I am grateful to him for his achievement.”