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Marathon world record holder Kiptum dies in road accident

KENYA’S marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach were killed in a traffic accident in the Rift Valley, cutting short the career of the only man to have run the endurance classic in less than two hours and one minute.

The 24-year-old set the world record, tab at the Chicago Marathon in October with a time of two hours and 35 seconds to surpass the mark of 2:01:09 run by compatriot Eliud Kipchoge in Berlin in 2022.

Kiptum, who clocked three of the seven fastest marathon times in history, had been hoping to become the first man to run the marathon in under two hours in race conditions at Rotterdam in April as well as make his Olympic debut in Paris in July.

“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.

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“On behalf of all World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.

“An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”

According to the police report, Kiptum was driving his Rwandan coach and a woman in a car near the Rift Valley village where he was born when the accident occurred.

The wreckage of the vehicle in which Kenya’s marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach were killed is towed from the scene of the accident along the Kaptagat to Eldoret highway, near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, Kenya February 12, 2024. REUTERS

The athlete lost control of the vehicle and veered off the road into a ditch, travelling for about 60 metres along it before crashing into a large tree.

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Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the scene but the woman, 24-year-old Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei Keiyo, survived with serious injuries and was treated at a local hospital.

Tributes poured in from senior Kenyan politicians and fellow athletes.

“His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future,” Kenya’s President William Ruto said on social media platform X.

Kipchoge, who had been expected to race Kiptum at the Paris Olympics, said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of “rising star” Kiptum.

Writing on X, the 39-year-old said Kiptum was an “athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness”.

EXPLOSIVE ENTRY

Kiptum, a product of the high altitude region of Kenya which has produced most of the country’s world-renowned distance runners, started his international career on the half-marathon circuit in 2019.

He made an explosive entry into the full 42.195km distance by running the then fourth fastest time on record (2.01.53) to win the 2022 Valencia Marathon on debut.

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That race revealed his trademark approach to marathons, running with the pack for the first 30kms and then upping the pace and racing off alone for the remainder of the race.

He used the same tactics to win last April’s London Marathon in a course record of 2:01:25 and again in Chicago in October to take 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s world mark.

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That was to be his final race before his untimely death, which came only a week after World Athletics had ratified his world record.

Hakizimana, 36, was a former distance runner who still holds Rwanda’s record for the 3,000 metres steeplechase. He first met Kiptum when he was training in the Rift Valley and worked with him intensively before last year’s London marathon.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn the passing of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana,” Kenya’s twice Olympic champion and 800m world record holder David Rudisha said on X.

“This is a huge loss.”


Reaction to the death of marathon world record holder Kiptum

WORLD ATHLETICS PRESIDENT SEBASTIAN COE

“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.

“It was only earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon world record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time. An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”

TWO-TIME OLYMPIC CHAMPION AND EX-WORLD RECORD HOLDER ELIUD KIPCHOGE

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic passing of the Marathon World record holder and rising star Kelvin Kiptum.

“An athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness.

“I offer my deepest condolences to his young family. May God comfort you during this trying time.”

KENYA’S PRESIDENT WILLIAM RUTO

“Kelvin Kiptum was a star. Arguably one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record.

“He was only 24 yet, as a hero, triumphed in Valencia, Chicago, London and in other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future.

“An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark in the globe. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting fraternity. Rest In Peace.”

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KENYA’S FORMER PRIME MINISTER RAILA ODINGA

“My deepest condolences to his loved ones, friends, and the entire athletics fraternity. Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”

KENYA’S SPORTS MINISTER ABABU NAMWAMBA

“Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”

KENYA’S OLYMPIC CHAMPION AND 800M WORLD RECORD HOLDER DAVID RUDISHA

“I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn the passing of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana. My condolences to the families, friends, athletic fraternity and Kenya at large. This is a huge loss.”

KENYA’S FIVE-TIME OLYMPIAN BERNARD LAGAT

“I’m shocked to hear of the tragic accident that took the lives of Kevin Kiptum (WR Holder- Marathon) and his Coach today. Gone too soon. RIP Champion”

AUSTRALIA’S ROBERT DE CASTELLA, FORMER WORLD CHAMPION MARATHON RUNNER

“Shocking tragedy! Just like that, a rising superstar is gone. Highlights how precious life is, and how vulnerable we all are.”

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By THOMAS MUKOYA and HUMPHREY MALALO

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