Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum has died following a road accident in western Kenya on Sunday.
The 24-year-old was killed in a car crash alongside his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.
He has closely battled with legendary marathon runner and compatriot Eliud Kipchoge in the last year after making his breakthrough in 2023.
Both Kiptum and Kipchoge were set to represent Kenya at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the summer.
Kenya sports minister Ababu Namwamba was one of the first to pay tribute following the tragic accident and wrote: “Devastatingly sickening!! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”
The country’s former prime minister, Raila Odinga, said Kenya had “lost a hero”, while president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, said Kiptum left “an incredible legacy”.
“On behalf of all World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, team-mates 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.”
Last week, Kiptum’s team announced that he was preparing to run the Rotterdam Marathon, which he would try and complete in under two hours – a time which has never been achieved before in open competition.
He set the fourth-fastest time on record in his first full-distance marathon to win in Valencia two years ago, clocking in at 2:01:53.
A year later in April 2023, Kiptum set a course record at the London Marathon, crossing the line in 2:01:25.
His final race was his record-breaking effort in Chicago last year, where he shaved 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s effort at the Berlin Marathon in 2022 to become the first runner to break 2:01:00 in a record-eligible marathon.
Kiptum was well known for his tactic of running with the remainder of the pack for roughly 30km before breaking away to the finish.
He was one of the runners to start their careers with long-distance road races as opposed to track distances, switching up past traditions used by Kenyan athletes.