Kelvin Kiptum, the 24-year-old world record-holding marathon runner from Kenya, tragically lost his life in a car crash in western Kenya.
The incident occurred on Sunday evening when Kiptum, behind the wheel, lost control of his vehicle, resulting in a fatal rollover.
The accident claimed the lives of both Kiptum and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana, while a female passenger sustained injuries and was promptly taken to the hospital.
Kiptum gained international acclaim in October when he stunned the marathon world by completing the Chicago race in a record-breaking time of 2:00:35.
This remarkable feat, achieved at just 23 years old and in only his third marathon, saw him outpace the previous record held by fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge by 34 seconds. Kiptum continued his winning streak with victories in his debut in Valencia in 2022 and a subsequent race in London the following year.
The promising athlete had set his sights on breaking the two-hour mark in an official marathon, announcing his ambitious attempt in Rotterdam scheduled for April 14. Kiptum was widely considered the frontrunner for the gold medal at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.
The news of Kiptum’s untimely death reverberated through the athletics community, prompting an outpouring of tributes. World Athletics President Sebastian Coe expressed shock and deep sadness, remembering Kiptum as one of the most exciting prospects in road running.
Coe, who had ratified Kiptum’s record in Chicago just last week, acknowledged the incredible athlete and the legacy he leaves behind, expressing a profound sense of loss.
Two-time Kenyan Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha conveyed his shock and deep sadness through a social media post, emphasizing the significant loss to the athletics world.
Former world champion marathon runner Robert de Castella also paid tribute, describing Kiptum’s sudden departure as a shocking tragedy, highlighting the fragility of life.
Kelvin Kiptum hailed from Chepkorio, a village in the Rift Valley, renowned as the heartland of Kenyan distance running. A decade ago, he was tending goats and sheep as a teenager before immersing himself in the world of running.
Under the guidance of Rwandan coach Hakizimana, Kiptum’s journey accelerated, marked by exceptional achievements in half-marathons and a swift rise to prominence.
The untimely death of Kiptum adds to a series of tragedies that have befallen Kenya’s young athletics hopefuls. In 2011, marathon great Samuel Wanjiru met a similar fate at the age of 24, and in 2021, long-distance running star Agnes Tirop was found stabbed to death at 25.
These incidents underscore the vulnerability of athletes, even in the prime of their careers, serving as poignant reminders of the fleeting nature of life.
Kelvin Kiptum’s legacy as a world record holder and promising talent will endure in the annals of athletics, but his untimely passing leaves a void in the sports community.
The outpouring of grief from fellow athletes, officials, and fans reflects the profound impact he had on the world of running.