Tragic news struck the world of long-distance running as Kelvin Kiptum, the record-setting marathon sensation, and his coach were killed in a car accident in Kenya late Sunday, February 11, 2024.
Kiptum, who was just 24 years old, had his record from the Chicago Marathon last year officially recognized by the international track federation World Athletics just last week.
He was a rising star in long-distance running and had high hopes for winning gold in the marathon at the Paris Olympics in August.
The crash happened around 11 p.m. and claimed the lives of both Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana, from Rwanda. Another runner, Milcah Chemos, confirmed their deaths.
The crash occurred on a road between Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, a renowned training area for elite distance runners like Kelvin Kiptum, who grew up in the region.
Milcah Chemos, along with other athletes and Kiptum’s family, rushed to the hospital upon hearing the tragic news.
Denis Muga, the local police chief in Kaptagat, confirmed that Kiptum was driving, but he wasn’t alone in the car.
According to Kenneth Kimaiyo, a close friend of Kiptum’s who arrived at the scene shortly after the crash, Kiptum had been ejected from the vehicle.
Kimaiyo observed that the car appeared to have swerved off the road at high speed, hitting a tree before overturning.
A woman was also in the car and had sustained serious injuries, according to reports.
Images from the crash site showed a silver car with significant damage to its roof and one of its doors thrown open.
The Kenyan track federation expressed deep sorrow over the passing of Kelvin Kiptum and Gervais Hakizimana.
Kiptum’s Records Promising Future
Kiptum made history as the first man to complete a marathon in under 2 hours, and 1 minute during an official race when he set the world record of 2:00:35 in Chicago last October, surpassing the achievement of fellow Kenyan marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.
Remarkably, he achieved this feat in only his third top-level marathon.
Kiptum and Kipchoge were anticipated to engage in an exciting competition for marathon gold in Paris, representing Kenya.
Kiptum was scheduled to kick off his season at the Rotterdam Marathon in April, marking his first race since breaking the world record.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe was among the first to offer condolences via X, previously known as Twitter.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana… On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.”Sebastian Coe
Kiptum made an impressive debut at the 2022 Valencia Marathon, setting the record for the fastest time ever by a marathon debutant.
The following year, he clinched victories at the prestigious London and Chicago marathons, solidifying his status as one of the brightest talents in the sport.
Despite his youth and relatively short time on the tracks, Kiptum had already logged three of the seven fastest marathon times ever recorded.
Tragically, he becomes the latest in a series of top Kenyan runners to lose their lives in fatal road accidents.
The list includes David Lelei, an All-Africa Games silver medalist, who died in a car crash in 2010, and marathon runner Francis Kiplagat, among five victims in a 2018 accident.
Nicholas Bett, the 400-meter hurdles gold medalist at the 2015 world championships, also lost his life in a car crash that same year.
However, there have been instances where some top athletes survived serious road accidents. David Rudisha, Moses Tanui, a former 10,000-meter world champion, and Paul Tergat, an Olympic silver medalist, all survived such incidents.
The sport also mourns the loss of Samuel Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic marathon champion, whose promising career was cut short in 2011 when he tragically fell from a balcony at his home in Kenya at the age of 24.