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Marathon World Record Holder Kelvin Kiptum, 24, Dies In A Car Crash In Kenya

Kenyan marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, 24, tragically died in a car crash in Kenya, cutting short the promising career of a remarkable athlete on the brink of historic achievements.

World Marathon Record Holder Kelvin Kiptum Photo: Reuters
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Kelvin Kiptum, the Kenyan marathon world record holder who was on course to become the first individual to complete the race in under two hours, tragically died in a car accident on Sunday. He was 24 years old.

Tributes have poured in for the Kenyan athlete, following his unexpected demise in a road accident on Sunday, along with his coach.

At 24 years old, Kelvin Kiptum, who claimed victory in the London Marathon in April prior to setting the world record in Chicago in October, reportedly lost control of his vehicle while driving in Kaptagat, south-west Kenya, at 11pm local time, according to police reports.

The crash also claimed the life of his coach, Gervais Hakizimana, while a third individual was reportedly rushed to the hospital.

Kenya's former prime minister, Raila Odinga, expressed his condolences, stating on X (formerly Twitter): “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.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Kenya's Minister for Sports, Ababu Namwamba, who commented on X: “Devastatingly sickening! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”

Meanwhile, the President of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, expressed his shock and profound sadness upon hearing about the tragic loss of Kiptum and Hakizimana. “An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly,” he remarked.

According to local county commander Peter Mulinge, as reported by the Nation newspaper, Kiptum lost control of his vehicle, striking a tree before ending up in a ditch.

“This was a self-involved accident where one Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, was driving his vehicle with two passengers,” Mulinge added. “Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot and the third person was rushed to Racecourse hospital in Eldoret.”

Kelvin Kiptum Car Crash
Kelvin Kiptum Car Crash Photo: Reuters
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Just last week, Kiptum's world record time of 2 hours, 35 seconds, which shaved off 34 seconds from Eliud Kipchoge's previous record, was officially recognized by World Athletics. He had also recently revealed his intentions to be the first athlete to officially complete a marathon in under two hours, with plans to do so in Rotterdam in April.

His death sent shockwaves across Kenya, a nation where runners are revered as the ultimate sports stars. Kenyans have unfortunately become accustomed to tragic stories involving their top athletes, with several having tragically lost their lives in road accidents, other mishaps, and instances of domestic violence.

Athletes and relatives, including Kiptum's father, congregated at the hospital mortuary where the bodies of Kiptum and his coach were transported. Former women's steeplechase world champion Milcah Chemos fought back tears as she struggled to articulate her feelings.

“I have no words to explain the loss of Kelvin,” she said.

Kenneth Kimaiyo, a close friend of Kiptum, recounted arriving at the crash site shortly after the incident occurred, where he found Kiptum had been thrown out from the vehicle. Photos depicted the silver car with severe damage to its roof and one of its doors flung open.

Kelvin Kiptum World Record

At the age of 24, Kiptum was regarded as one of the most thrilling prospects in road running in years, having shattered the world record in just his third participation in an elite marathon.

Kiptum made history as the first man to complete the marathon in an official race in under 2 hours and 1 minute, achieving the world record time of 2:00.35 in Chicago in October. This feat surpassed the record set by fellow Kenyan marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.

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Kiptum quickly made an impact by clocking the fastest time ever for a debutant in the marathon at the 2022 Valencia Marathon. The subsequent year, he claimed victory in both the London and Chicago marathons, widely regarded as two of the most esteemed marathons in the world. He established a new course record at the London Marathon in April, before later becoming the fastest marathon runner in the world.

Despite being young and relative new to the marathon circuit, Kiptum had already run three of the seven fastest marathon times ever recorded, establishing himself as an exceptional and rare talent.

Former Kenyan Athletes Tragedies

However, he tragically became the latest Kenyan star to succumb to devastating circumstances.

In 2010, All-Africa Games silver medalist David Lelei died in a car accident. Then, in 2018, marathon runner Francis Kiplagat was among five people killed in a crash. Nicholas Bett, who secured gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2015 world championships, also died in a car accident that year.

On a more hopeful note, former 10,000 meters world champion Moses Tanui, Olympic silver medalist Paul Tergat, and David Rudisha have all survived serious road accidents in the East African nation.

The passing of Samuel Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic marathon champion who was anticipated to become one of the sport's legends, occurred in 2011 at the age of 24 when he fell from a balcony at his residence in Kenya.

Kenyans were particularly stunned by the tragic death of Agnes Tirop in 2021. Tirop, a multiple cross-country world champion, was fatally stabbed in her home, allegedly by her husband, who was subsequently charged with her murder.

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