Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya has died aged 24.
Kiptum, along with his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, died in a traffic accident on Monday (AEDT), according to multiple reports.
The crash happened on a road between the towns of Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, a noted high-altitude training centre for long-distance athletes.
That record was only ratified by World Athletics on February 7, just five days before his death.
He was also named one of World Athletics’s six athletes of 2023 in December.
Kenya’s Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba said on X, “Devastatingly sickening!! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”
Former prime minister Raila Odinga described Kiptum as a “Kenyan athletics icon” in a statement on X.
“Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual,” he wrote.
“My deepest condolences to his loved ones, friends, and the entire athletics fraternity.
“Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”
Kiptum, who only made his marathon debut just over a year ago, took to the distance with aplomb.
In his all-too-brief career he ran three of the fastest seven marathons in history, setting up a potential mouth-watering battle at the Paris Games between himself and two-time defending Olympic marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge.
Kiptum won his debut marathon in Valencia in December 2022, running a negative split to record the fourth fastest time in history.
He went on to win two of marathon’s five majors in 2023, in London and Chicago.
Kiptum broke Kipchoge’s record by 34 seconds in Chicago, becoming the the first athlete to break 2:01 in a record-eligible marathon.
Kipchoge, 39, is still the fastest to cover the marathon distance, but his heavily supported sub-two hour time from 2019 is not considered a world record.
Kiptum had high hopes for a successful 2024, confirming just last week that he would target the Rotterdam marathon in April and then setting his sights on winning gold at the Paris Olympics.
“I’ll try at least to beat my world record here [in Rotterdam],” Kiptum said last November.
“I know I’m capable of doing that, if my preparation works out well and the conditions are OK.
“And in that case, I will get close to the two-hour barrier, so why not aim to break it?
“That might look ambitious, but I’m not afraid of setting this kind of goals.
“There’s no limit to human energy.”
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