World Marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his Rwandan coach Garvais Hakizimana died Sunday night in a road accident in Kaptagat in the Rift Valley, Kenyan police confirmed.
The accident occurred on Sunday at 11pm along the Elgeyo Marakwet-Ravine road, according to Elgeyo Marakwet Police Commander Peter Mulinge.
Kiptum, who was returning from Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County, lost control of his vehicle, which veered off the road and into a ditch before being stopped by a tree about 60 metres from the main road.
With him was his coach and a female passenger, identified as Sharon Kosgey, who survived the accident and was rushed to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.
Read: This man Kelvin Kiptum
President William Ruto has led the country in mourning the death of Kiptum, eulogising him as a star and arguably one of the best athletes in the world.
“He was only 24 years old and yet he triumphed as a hero in Valencia, Chicago, London and other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unparalleled. Kiptum was our future,” President Ruto said in a statement.
“An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark on the world. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting community. Rest in peace,” he said.
Kelvin Kiptum was a star. Arguably one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record.
He was only 24 yet, as a hero, triumphed in Valencia, Chicago, London and in other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum… pic.twitter.com/Ff7nild1CG
— William Samoei Ruto, PhD (@WilliamsRuto) February 12, 2024
Paying tribute to the champion, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said he was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kiptum and his coach Hakizimana.
“On behalf of World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation. It was only earlier this week in Chicago, where Kiptum set his extraordinary marathon world record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time. An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, he will be greatly missed,” the statement read.
We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.
On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.
It was only earlier this week in… pic.twitter.com/dDBKgjXNKL
— Seb Coe (@sebcoe) February 11, 2024
According to Kenneth Kimaiyo, who was among the first responders, he had heard about the accident and rushed to the scene.
When he got there, he found a man on a motorcycle helping the woman, who was screaming for help, before she was taken to Savanis Dispensary and later transferred to the referal hospital.
Kimaiyo said he found Kiptum’s body under his vehicle while the coach was lying on the hill, still breathing.
“We tried to save the coach because he was still breathing but he died immediately. Kiptum was lying under the car with his seat belt ripped and he was already dead,” Kimaiyo said.
Kimaiyo added that he had known Kiptum for a long time as he was a customer of his shop and used to buy things from him in Chepkorio in Elgeyo Marakwet County.
In a statement shared on social media, Bob Verbeek of Golazo Group, a Belgian sports management company that managed the athlete, said they were shocked to learn of Kiptum’s death.
“We are deeply saddened to hear that our beloved friend and marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum has passed away in a road accident. Kiptum’s coach Gervais Hakizimana was also killed in the accident on the Eldoret-Kaptagat road in Kenya.
“On behalf of all our colleagues and his friends at Golazo, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends and the entire athletics family,” the statement read.
Elgeyo Marakwet County Sports Committee member Purity Koima said it was sad that the world had lost a promising athlete whose star was beginning to shine.
“The other day we were celebrating his achievements and today we are mourning the loss of one of the best athletes in the world. My condolences to the family,” she said.
Athletics Kenya athlete representative Milca Chemos said she was shocked to hear of Kiptum’s death.
“This is really devastating to lose such a hard-working athlete who took competition to another level. May his soul rest in peace,” Chemos said.
Last week, Kiptum’s world record of 2:00:35 was ratified by the World Athletics IAAF after he lowered the previous record at the Chicago Marathon in the USA in October.
He was posed to run under two hours at the Rotterdam Marathon on April 14 this year.
He was also in the Kenyan team picked for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.