Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum, who was set to be a superstar of long-distance running, was killed along with his coach in a car crash in Kenya late Sunday.
Kiptum was 24 and had the world record he set last year at the Chicago Marathon ratified by international track federation World Athletics just last week. He was one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in road running in years and was a clear contender for gold in the marathon at the Paris Olympics in August.
Kiptum, who was Kenyan, and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed in the crash at around 11 p.m.
Fellow athlete Geoffery Kamworor said he could not believe the news and is still in shock.
“It is a sad morning to be here to hear about the tragic accident that has happened. Personally when I was called, I didn’t believe until I arrived here. So I witnessed and saw for myself. I want to say it is really sad because we did not expect this one. I want to say sorry to the family, the athletics fraternity and the entire country. May God comfort us at this trying moment because I can say for sure we are still in denial,” said Geoffery Kamworor.
Another Kenyan athlete, Milcah Chemos (Former 3000M Steeplechase World Champion), confirmed their deaths to The Associated Press. She was at the hospital mortuary where the bodies were taken and had seen Kiptum’s body.
She struggled to speak while breaking down in tears.
“I have no words to explain the loss of Kelvin,” she said.
“We have all known Kiptum as our best and even he was in our team for the Olympics, so we are just in this world as we are nothing. I can say sorry to everyone, sorry to his family.”
The crash happened on a road between the towns of Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, Chemos said, in the heart of the high-altitude region that’s renowned as a training base for top distance runners from Kenya and across the world.
Kiptum was born and raised in the area.
Chemos said she went to the hospital with other athletes and members of Kiptum’s family after hearing the news.
The family members, which included Kiptum’s father, were there to identify his body.
(with Associated Press inputs)