Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder and winner of the London Marathon, has died in a car accident in Kenya.
His death was reported on Sunday night by Kenya’s The Standard newspaper, which said Kiptum and his Rwandan coach and mentor, Gervais Hakizimana, were killed while driving between Eldoret and Kaptagat, two of the main bases for the endurance runners. Kenya.
Kiptum took long distance running by storm last year, becoming the first man to break Eliud Kipchoge’s world record of 2hrs 1min at the Chicago Marathon after winning the London Marathon in the third fastest time ever over the distance of 26.2 thousand.
His colleague Kipchoge posted a message on social media on Monday morning: “I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of marathon world record holder and rising star Kelvin Kiptum,” he wrote. “An athlete who had an entire life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness. My heartfelt condolences to his young family. May God comfort you during this difficult time.”
Kiptum, who completed his three marathons in times that are among the seven fastest in history, is survived by his wife Asenath Rotich and their two children.
A report in the Nation newspaper quoted Peter Mulinge, the local police commander. “This was a self-inflicted accident when Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, was driving his vehicle with two passengers,” said Mulinge. “Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot while the third person was taken to the Racecourse Hospital in Eldoret.”
Musalia Mudavadi, who is a cabinet secretary in Kenya, wrote: “I am very sad to hear about the death of Kelvin Kiptum. His amazing talent and unwavering commitment to athletics inspired countless people.
“He has made an indelible mark, not only through his achievements but also through mentorship and leadership, guiding aspiring athletes to reach their full potential. The legacy he leaves behind is a testament to passion and commitment to excellence.
“During this difficult time, my thoughts and prayers are with their family, friends and colleagues. May you find comfort in the memories you shared and strength in supporting each other.”
Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, was among those who paid tribute:
We are deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.
On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, colleagues and the nation of Kenya.
It was only earlier this week in… pic.twitter.com/dDBKgjXNKL
— Seb Coe (@sebcoe) February 11, 2024
Widely regarded as a once-in-a-generation talent, Kiptum was the favorite for Olympic gold in Paris this summer, where his legendary compatriot Kipchoge will go for a hat-trick of marathon titles.
Kiptum’s historic time of 2hr 0m 35sec was set in October and he was in the final weeks of training for the Rotterdam Marathon in April after also being selected for the Kenyan team for the Olympic marathon in August.
‘The flame that burned so brightly went out tragically’
While Kipchoge became the first person to run a marathon under two hours in a controlled time trial event with pacers in Vienna in 2019, Kiptum looked set to become the first to achieve that feat in sealed race conditions . In April 2023, he set a course record of 2:01:25 at the London Marathon.
London Marathon event director Hugh Brasher said on Monday: “Kelvin had the sport of marathon running in his legs and feet. He was a ‘once in a generation’ athlete who was ready to redefine the boundaries of our sport. Three marathons, three wins. The fastest marathon start in Valencia, the London course record holder and the world record holder in Chicago, all within the space of less than 12 months. It was a flame that burned so brightly that was tragically extinguished last night.
“As a sport we mourn such a tragic life, a talent and work ethic we were only just beginning to appreciate and a man we only knew. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and those of his coach Gervais. We hope Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei, who was traveling with them, makes a speedy full recovery.”
Kiptum was named ‘off-track’ athlete of the year by World Athletics in December and, after taking up running barefoot while herding cattle for his family, admitted he had never set foot on an athletics track before. this.
“I had no track to train on,” he said. “I entered road running, half marathon, 10km. And always I was training with a group of marathon runners. So I ended up running a marathon.
“I was a boy for many years. It was my life, as it was for many others. But I had to find time for my run.”
Kiptum’s death left Kenya, and the world’s athletics community, in a state of shock and mourning.
“Terrible news as we mourn the loss of a great person: Kelvin Kiptum, world record holder and Kenyan athletics icon,” said Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister between 2008 and 2013. “Along with his coach, they went on tragically an accident tonight. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and the entire athletics fraternity. Our nation is saddened by the profound loss of a true hero.”
Gideon Kimaiyo, member of parliament for Keiyo in Kenya, said: “Kelvin Kiptum was at the beginning of his life, a legend in his own right.”