NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who was expected to become a long-distance running superstar and was the favorite to win gold at this year's Paris Olympics, has died along with his coach. Car accident in Kenya.
Police said their car was the only one involved in the accident late Sunday, when the car Kiptam was driving ran off the road, into a ditch and hit a tree.
Kenya's Kiptum, 24, is one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in road running in recent years, breaking the world record in just his third time competing in an elite marathon. His record, set at last year's Chicago Marathon, was recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations World Athletics just last week.
His death resonated across Kenya, where runners are the biggest sports stars. Kenyans are also no stranger to tragic stories about top athletes, following the deaths of many in road and other accidents and incidents of domestic violence.
Kenyan President William Ruto expressed his condolences in a statement: “He was only 24 years old.” “Kyptum was our future.”
Police said Kiptum and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana, died in the accident around 11 p.m. It happened near the town of Kaptagat in western Kenya. It is located in the heart of a highland region known as a training base for some of the best distance runners in Kenya and around the world.
Kiptam was born and raised in this area.
A third woman, a 24-year-old woman, was also in the car and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, police said. Kiptum and Hakijimana died at the scene.
Players and family members, including Kiptum's father, gathered at the hospital morgue where Kiptum and his coach's bodies were taken. One of the athletes, former women's steeplechase world champion Mirka Chemos, broke down in tears and struggled to speak.
“There are no words to explain Kelvin's death,” she said.
Kiptam's friend Kenneth Kimayo arrived at the scene of the accident shortly after the incident and said Kiptam was thrown from the car. Photos showed a silver car with a badly damaged roof and a flattened windshield.
Kiptum set a world record of 2:00.35 in Chicago in October, becoming the first person to run a marathon in an official race under 2:01, surpassing fellow Kenyan and marathon great Eliud. -Breaked Kipchoge's record. Current two-time Olympic champion.
Kiptam and Kipchoge are expected to put on an enthralling all-Kenyan battle for marathon gold in Paris, with Kiptam set to start his season at April's Rotterdam Marathon, which will see him break the world record. It was scheduled to be the first tournament since then.
“He was an athlete who dedicated his life to achieving incredible greatness,” Kipchoge said in his memorial message.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe was one of the first to express his condolences in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating passing of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana,” Ko wrote.
“It was only earlier this week in Chicago, where Kelvin set his incredible marathon world record, that I was able to officially recognize his historic record. An incredible athlete. He left an incredible legacy and we will miss him greatly.”
David Rudisha, Kenya's two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters, wrote in X that Kiptum's death was a “huge loss”.
Kiptum achieved immediate success, recording the fastest time ever as a marathon debutant at the 2022 Valencia Marathon. The following year, he won the London and Chicago races, two of the world's most prestigious marathon events. He set a new course record at the London Marathon last April, and a few months later became the world's fastest marathon runner.
Although he was young and new to the circuit, he had already run three of the seven fastest marathon times ever recorded and was considered a rare talent.
But he was also the latest Kenyan star to die in devastating circumstances.
All-African Games silver medalist David Lelei died in a car accident in 2010. Marathon runner Francis Kiplagat was among the five people killed in traffic accidents in 2018. Nicholas Bett, a world champion who won gold in the 400m hurdles at the 2015 track and field championships, died in a car accident in 2018.
Rudisha, former 10,000m world champion Moses Tanui and Olympic silver medalist Paul Tergat all survived serious road accidents in the East African country.
Samuel Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic marathon champion and considered the greatest runner of all time, died in 2011 at the age of 24 after falling from the balcony of his Kenyan home.
Perhaps Kenyans were most shocked when multiple cross-country world champion Agnes Tillop was stabbed to death by her husband in their home in 2021. He was charged with murder.
Imlay reported from Cape Town, South Africa.
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