Reigning marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana was killed in a road accident in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret in Kenya.
The 24-year-old Kenyan athlete, who was driving a Toyota Premio, and his coach died at the scene of the crash, Kenyan police confirmed.
The 24-year-old set the world record 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, 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.
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.
“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, 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.”
Kiptum’s manager Bob Verbeeck described the athlete as a “beloved friend”.
“On behalf of all our colleagues and his friends at Golazo (Management Group), we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends and all in the athletics family,” Verbeeck said in a statement.
“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 said: “Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”
Olympic champions and 800m World record holder David Rudisha said: “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.”
Robert de Castella, former World Champion marathon runner said: “Shocking tragedy! Just like that, a rising superstar is gone. Highlights how precious life is, and how vulnerable we all are.”