Marathon world-record holder, Kelvin Kiptum, who was set to be a superstar of long-distance running and was a top contender for gold at the 2024 Olympics in Paris this year, has died alongside with his coach in a car crash in Kenya.
ESPN reports that their vehicle was the only one involved in the crash late Sunday and Kiptum was driving when it veered off the road and into a ditch before hitting a tree, police said.
Kiptum was 24 and one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in road running in years, having broken the world record in only his third appearance in an elite marathon. His record, set at last year’s Chicago Marathon, was ratified by international track federation World Athletics just last week.
“He was only 24,” Kenyan President William Ruto said in a statement offering his condolences. “Kiptum was our future.”
Kiptum and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana, were killed in the crash at around 11pm, police said.
The accident happened near the town of Kapsabet in western Kenya, in the heart of the high-altitude region that’s renowned as a training base for the best distance runners from Kenya and across the world.
Kiptum was born and raised in the area.
A third person, a 24-year-old woman, was also in the car and was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, police said. Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the scene.
Athletes and family members, including Kiptum’s father, gathered at the hospital mortuary where the bodies of Kiptum and his coach were taken. One of the athletes, former women’s steeplechase world champion Milcah Chemos, struggled to speak while breaking down in tears.
“I have no words to explain the loss of Kelvin,” she said.
Kenneth Kimaiyo, a friend of Kiptum, said he arrived at the crash scene soon after it happened and Kiptum had been thrown out of the car. Photos showed the silver car with a badly mangled roof and one of the doors flung open.
Kiptum was the first man to run the marathon in under two hours, one minute in an official race when he set the world record of 2:00.35 in Chicago in October, beating the mark of fellow Kenyan and marathon great, Eliud Kipchoge.