Kenyan marathon world record holder dies in road accident
Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum, the current holder of the men’s marathon world record at 24 years old, tragically passed away in a car accident in his homeland.
The accident, which occurred on a road in western Kenya last Sunday, also claimed the life of his coach, Gervais Hakizimana of Rwanda.
Kiptum rose to prominence in 2023 as a formidable competitor to fellow Kenyan marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.
His crowning achievement came in Chicago last October when he surpassed Kipchoge’s record, completing the 26.2-mile (42km) distance in an astounding two hours and 35 seconds.
Both athletes had been selected for Kenya’s preliminary marathon team for the upcoming Paris Olympics.
Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba expressed profound sadness, describing Kiptum’s loss as deeply shocking. Raila Odinga, Kenya’s opposition leader and former prime minister, honored Kiptum as a national hero and an icon of Kenyan athletics.
Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, hailed Kiptum as an extraordinary athlete who leaves behind an enduring legacy.
According to reports from the AFP news agency, the fatal accident occurred around 11:00 PM local time (20:00 GMT) when Kiptum, who was driving, lost control of the vehicle, resulting in a fatal rollover that claimed both lives.
A spokesman quoted by AFP added that the third passenger – who was female – had been injured and “rushed to hospital”.
Just last week, his team announced that he would attempt to run the distance in under two hours at the Rotterdam marathon – a feat that has never been achieved in open competition.
The rise to fame for the father-of-two had been rapid – he only ran his first full marathon in 2022.
He made an instant impact over the distance as he ran the then-fourth fastest time on record (2:01:53) to win the Valencia Marathon before setting a course record of 2:01:25 at the London Marathon in April 2023.
Six months later, in just his third marathon, Kiptum took 34 seconds off the world record time in Chicago in his final race.
He had already honed a distinct tactical approach that saw him run with the pack for 30kms before upping the pace and going out on his own for the remainder of the race.
Kiptum competed in his first major competition in 2018 running in borrowed shoes because he could not afford a pair of his own.
He 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.
Kiptum told the BBC last year that his unusual choice was simply determined by a lack of resources.
“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he explained.
His coach, Hakizimana, 36, was a retired Rwandese runner. Last year, he spent months helping Kiptum target the world record.
Their relationship as coach and athlete began in 2018, but the pair first met when the world record holder was much younger.
“I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefooted,” Hakizimana recalled last year. “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.”