Nairobi (Kenya): The world of athletics is mourning the loss of Kelvin Kiptum, the Kenyan marathon world record holder who died in a car crash on Sunday night. He was 24 years old.
Kiptum, who ran the fastest-ever marathon in a record-eligible race at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, was driving with his coach Gervais Hakizimana, and a female passenger near Kaptagat, a high-altitude training base for many Kenyan runners, when his car veered off the road, entered a ditch, and hit a tree. Kiptum and Hakizimana, a former Rwandan steeplechaser, were pronounced dead at the scene, while the woman was rushed to the hospital with serious injuries.
Kiptum was widely regarded as one of the greatest marathoners of all time, having won all three marathons he participated in, all with sub-2:02 times. He made his marathon debut at the 2022 Valencia Marathon, where he became the third man in history to break the two-hour-two-minute barrier. He followed that up with a stunning performance at the 2023 London Marathon, where he clocked 2:01:25, the second-fastest time ever and just 16 seconds shy of the then-world record held by his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge. He finally broke the world record at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, finishing in 2:00:35, a feat that was officially ratified by World Athletics last week.
Kiptum was also a former world champion in the 5000 meters, having won the gold medal at the 2003 World Championships in Paris at the age of 18. He also won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in the same event. He switched to road running in 2019 and quickly rose to prominence with his impressive half-marathon debut of 59:25.
Kiptum was preparing for the 2024 Paris Olympics, where he was expected to be a strong contender for the gold medal in the marathon. His death has shocked and saddened the global running community and his fellow Kenyans, who regarded him as a national hero and source of inspiration.
Kenyan President William Ruto expressed his condolences to Kiptum’s family, friends, and fans, saying, “He was only 24 years old. Kiptum was our future. He was a shining star who brought glory and pride to our country with his remarkable achievements. He was a humble and hardworking young man who dedicated his life to his passion and his talent. He will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.”
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe also paid tribute to Kiptum and Hakizimana, saying, “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. Kelvin was an incredible athlete who left an incredible legacy. He was the world’s fastest marathoner and one of the greatest of all time. He was also a kind and generous person who always had a smile on his face. Gervais was a respected coach who helped Kelvin reach his full potential. They were a formidable duo who shared a bond of friendship and excellence. We will miss them dearly.