Tributes poured in for Kenyan running sensation Kelvin Kiptum on Monday, after the 24-year-old was killed in a car incident in his home country.
The frontrunner for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics was driving from Kaptagat to Eldoret in western Kenya at 11 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Sunday when his car rolled.
Kiptum and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana were murdered, while a female passenger was injured, according to Peter Mulinge, the police chief for Elgeyo Marakwet County, where the accident occurred.
“The car had three occupants; two died on the scene and one was transported to the hospital. “The two are Kiptum and his coach,” he explained.
“It is Kiptum who was driving heading to Eldoret and the vehicle lost control and rolled, killing the two on the spot,” he told reporters at the scene.
Kiptum burst onto the marathon scene in October when he set a world record 2:00:35 in Chicago, knocking 34 seconds off fellow Kenyan star Eliud Kipchoge’s previous mark.
He was only 23 years old and racing in his third marathon.
Kiptum also won his other two races, his debut in Valencia in 2022 and a follow-up in London the next year.
“Arguably one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record,” Kenyan President William Ruto said on X, describing Kiptum as “our future” and “an extraordinary sportsman”.
Kiptum, who had been herding goats for a decade, had stated in April that he would strive to be the first man to complete an official marathon in under two hours.
World Athletics described his debut as the quickest in history, and they lamented the death of “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.”
Coe said only last week he had been in Chicago to officially ratify Kiptum’s historic time.
“An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”
Kiptum and compatriot Kipchoge were anticipated to run together for the first time this summer at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“With the Olympics just days away, we mourn the untimely departure of a promising talent,” President of Kenya’s National Olympic Committee Paul Tergat said in a statement on X.
“Kelvin’s recent ratified record in Chicago showcased his potential for a bright future, representing the next generation of Olympic greatness.”
Kenyan two-time Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha described his death as a “huge loss”.
Kiptum was born in Chepkorio, a community in Kenya’s Rift Valley that is the stronghold of long-distance running, and died there.
Ten years ago, when he was just a teen, he herded goats and sheep before joining Rwandan athlete Hakizimana and other runners in the famed high-altitude region to train.
In 2019, Kiptum completed two half-marathons in two weeks, clocking 60:48 in Copenhagen and 59:53 in Belfort, France. He started training with Hakizimana, who remained in Kenya when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Kiptum’s death is the latest in a series of tragedies affecting Kenya’s young athletes.
Kenyan marathon legend Samuel Wanjiru died at the same age in 2011, having won the Olympic championship in Beijing in 2008.
A pathologist determined that Wanjiru died after being struck in the head with a blunt object.
Agnes Tirop, a 25-year-old long-distance runner, was discovered stabbed to death in her home in Iten, near Eldoret, in 2021.
In November of last year, her husband Ibrahim Rotich faced trial for her murder. He has denied the charges and was released on bail shortly before the trial began.