Marathon world record holder and Paris Olympics favorite Kelvin Kiptom has died in a car crash in western Kenya, police said on Monday. The 24-year-old player was traveling from Kaptagat to Eldoret at around 11pm (2000 GMT) on Sunday when the car he was traveling in rolled over, killing the young sensation and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana. “There were three people in the car, two died on the spot while one was taken to hospital. The two occupants are Kiptom and its coach,” said Peter Mulinge, police commander for Elgeyo Marakwet county in western Kenya.
“It was Kiptom which was heading towards Eldoret and the vehicle lost control and rolled, killing both of them on the spot. A female passenger was injured and taken to hospital,” he told reporters.
Kiptom burst onto the marathon scene when he set a world record of 2:00:35 in Chicago in October, knocking 34 seconds off fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge's previous record.
He was only 23 years old at the time, and was participating in his third marathon.
Kiptom also won in his other two attempts, in his debut in Valencia in 2022 and in a follow-up attempt in London the following year.
The Kenyan had announced he would attempt to become the first person to run an official two-hour marathon in Rotterdam on 14 April.
He was a strong favorite for 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 Kiptom and his coach Gervais Hakizimana,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement.
“On behalf of all of World Athletics, we express our deepest condolences to his families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.”
– 'Incredible Athlete' –
Coe said just last week he was in Chicago to “officially confirm” Kiptum's historic timing.
“An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him greatly.”
Kenya's two-time Olympic 800 meters champion David Rudisha said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the news.
“This is a huge loss,” he posted on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.
Athletics Kenya expressed condolences to “the entire athletics community during this difficult time”, while Kiptum's agent, Mark Korstjens, also confirmed the “sad news”.
Kiptom was from Chepkorio, a village in the Rift Valley, the epicenter of Kenyan distance running, and where he ultimately died.
Ten years ago, barely a teenager, he herded goats and sheep, then began following Hakizimana, who is from Rwanda, and other runners as they trained in the famous high-altitude region.
As of 2019, Kiptum ran two half-marathons in two weeks, 60:48 in Copenhagen and 59:53 in Belfort, France. He began training with Hakizimana, who stayed in Kenya when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Kiptom's death is the latest in a saga of tragedies to hit Kenya's youth athletics hopes.
In 2011, Kenyan marathon great Samuel Wanjiru died at the same age as him after winning the Olympic title at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
According to a pathologist, Wanjiru died from a blow to the head with a blunt object.
In 2021, long-distance running star Agnes Tirop was stabbed to death at the age of 25 at her home in Iten, near Eldoret.
Her husband Ibrahim Rotich was tried for her murder in November last year. He has denied the charge and was released on bail just before the trial began.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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