Marathon world record-holder Kiptum dies in car crash

Kelvin Kiptum, the world record holder in marathon and a favorite for the Paris Olympics, tragically died in a car accident in western Kenya, according to police. The 24-year-old was driving from Kaptagat to Eldoret around 11 pm (2000 GMT) on Sunday when the vehicle overturned, resulting in the untimely deaths of both Kiptum and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana.

“The car had three occupants, two died on the spot, while one was taken to hospital.

The two are Kiptum and his coach,” said Peter Mulinge, police commander for Elgeyo Marakwet County in western Kenya where the accident occurred.

“It is Kiptum who was driving heading to Eldoret and the vehicle lost control and rolled, killing the two on the spot. A female passenger sustained injuries and has been rushed to hospital,” he told reporters.

Kiptum burst onto the marathon scene with a remarkable performance, setting a new world record of 2:00:35 in Chicago in October. This impressive feat saw him shave off 34 seconds from the previous record held by fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge. At just 23 years old and participating in only his third marathon, Kiptum’s achievement was truly remarkable.

Notably, Kiptum emerged victorious in his two previous marathon attempts, first debuting in Valencia in 2022 and then triumphing in London the following year.

With ambitious goals ahead, Kiptum had announced his intention to make history by becoming the first person to officially complete a marathon in under two hours, with plans to attempt this feat in Rotterdam on April 14.

Given his exceptional performances and aspirations, Kiptum was widely regarded as the top contender for success at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

World Athletics remembered Kiptum 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.”

Just last week, Coe confirmed that he had traveled to Chicago specifically to officially approve Kiptum’s historic time.

“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, formerly Twitter.

Athletics Kenya extended condolences to “the entire athletics community during this difficult time” while Kiptum’s agent, Marc Corstjens, also confirmed the “sad news”.

Kiptum hailed from Chepkorio, a village nestled in the Rift Valley, known as the epicenter of Kenyan distance running, and tragically, it was there that he met his untimely demise.

A decade ago, barely a teenager, he spent his days herding goats and sheep before gravitating towards following runners like Hakizimana, who hailed from Rwanda, as they trained in the renowned high-altitude region.

In 2019, Kiptum made waves by completing two half-marathons in rapid succession, clocking 60:48 in Copenhagen and an impressive 59:53 in Belfort, France.

His partnership with Hakizimana began around this time, with the coach remaining in Kenya even as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

Kiptum’s passing adds to a series of tragedies that have afflicted Kenya’s promising young athletes.

In 2011, the nation mourned the loss of marathon legend Samuel Wanjiru, who tragically passed away at the same age, having previously clinched the Olympic title in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.

A pathologist attributed Wanjiru’s demise to a blow to the head with a blunt object.

More recently, in 2021, long-distance running sensation Agnes Tirop was discovered stabbed to death at just 25 years old in her home in Iten, near Eldoret. Her husband Ibrahim Rotich faced trial for her murder starting in November of that year. Despite denying the charges, he was granted bail shortly before the trial commenced.

(With AFP inputs)

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