Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Kelvin Kiptum killed in car crash, tributes pour in for marathon world record-holder

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Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya after the London marathon in April, 2023. Kiptum was killed along with his coach in a car crash. AP

Tributes poured in for running sensation Kelvin Kiptum after the marathon world record-holder was killed in a car crash at a young age of 24.

Kiptum’s death, just months before the Paris Olympics, has shocked Kenya and the world of athletics, with his rival, the legendary marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge saying he was “deeply saddened”.

Kiptum, a father of two, was driving from Kaptagat to Eldoret in the Rift Valley, the heartland of Kenyan distance running, when his car careered off the road and hit a tree.

Police said Kiptum and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed on the spot while a woman passenger was injured.

“He lost control and veered off-road entering into a ditch on his left side. He drove in the ditch for about 60 metres before hitting a big tree,” said an official police report from Elgeyo Marakwet County where the accident occurred.

Kelvin Kiptum killed in car crash tributes pour in for marathon world recordholder
The wreckage of the vehicle in which world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his Rwandese coach, Garvais Hakizimana, were traveling in before they were involved in a fatal road crash. AP

Images showed the mangled wreck of the vehicle, its windscreen shattered, the roof and doors buckled and almost ripped off.

From herding goats just a decade ago, Kiptum had announced he would attempt to become the first man to run an official marathon under the mythic two-hour mark.

He burst onto the marathon scene when he ran a world record 2:00:35 in Chicago in October, slicing 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s previous record.

He was just 23 at the time, and competing in only his third marathon.

Kiptum recorded three of the seven fastest marathon times in history.

‘A whole life ahead’

Kipchoge, regarded as one of the greatest marathoners of all time, described his younger rival as a “rising star”.

“An athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness,” Kipchoge said on X.

Kiptum and 39-year-old Kipchoge were expected to face off for the first time at the Paris Olympics.

As the tributes flowed, mourners gathered at the family home in the Rift Valley village of Chepsamo, consoling his father Samson Cheruiyot and his wife Asenath Rotich.

Cheruiyot told local station Citizen TV that he last spoke to his only son on Saturday and that Kiptum had said “if he was to run, he could do it in one hour 59/58 minutes since his body was feeling fine”.

Kenyan President William Ruto described Kiptum as “one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record”.

“An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark in the globe,” he said on X.

World Athletics said Kiptum’s Valencia debut was the fastest in history and mourned the loss of “one of the most exciting new prospects to emerge in road running in recent years”.

“An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly,” said its president Sebastian Coe, who last week had been in Chicago to officially ratify Kiptum’s historic time.

Kenyan 1,500m record-holder Faith Kipyegon left a wordless tribute on X: three crying emojis and a Kenyan flag, while two-time Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha said Kiptum’s death was a “huge loss”.

“We had been looking forward to welcoming him into the Olympic community at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and seeing what the fastest marathon runner in the world could achieve,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said on X.

Here are more notable reactions to his death:

“Kenya, the world, and the fraternity of athletics and sports in general has lost a special, shining gem.”

– Kenya’s Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba at a press conference.

“With the Olympics just days away, we mourn the untimely departure of a promising talent.

“Kelvin’s recent ratified record in Chicago showcased his potential for a bright future, representing the next generation of Olympic greatness. Historic, what the duo was able to accomplish.”

– National Olympic Committee of Kenya on X.

“I am so heart broken and shocked to learn of the saddening news of passing of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana.

“My condolences to both families, friends and all the athletics fans around the globe.”

– Joshua Cheptegei, Ugandan 5,000m and 10,000m record holder, on Instagram.

“Kelvin was an amazingly talented athlete and had already achieved so much. He truly had a special talent and I have no doubt he would have gone on to have had an incredible career.”

– Britain’s four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah on Instagram.

“I’m deeply saddened and heartbroken by the news Kelvin Kiptum and his coach died yesterday. My condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.”

– Sifan Hassan, Ethiopia-born Dutch distance runner who won the Chicago and London marathon women’s titles last year, on Instagram.

“Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual, Kelvin Kiptum, World Record holder and Kenyan athletics icon. Together with his coach, they tragically passed on in an accident tonight.

“Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”

– Raila Odinga, Kenyan opposition leader

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