Kenyan superstar distance runner Kelvin Kiptum has died in a car accident on Sunday evening. He was just 24 years old.
Kiptum was involved in a car accident, and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana, was also killed. A fellow athlete told the Associated Press that they saw Kiptum’s body at the hospital, confirming his death.
Police confirm that Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the scene of the accident at approximately 11 p.m. local time. Their bodies were taken to nearby Racecourse Hospital.
The crash took place on the Elgeyo Marakwet-Ravine Road in Kaptagat, in Kenya’s Rift Valley, near the town of Eldoret, in an area renowned for producing many of the greatest marathon runners in the world.
According to The Nation (Kenya), Kiptum was driving a Toyota Premio, with his coach and a third passenger named Sharon Kosgey. Kosgey, a local model, suffered serious injuries and was taken to an area hospital for treatment.
Police say that it was a “self-involved accident,” and taht Kiptum crashed the vehicle into a tree, and was thrown 60 meters. The AFP reported lat Sunday night that Kiptum’s vehicle “lost control and rolled, killing the two on the spot”.
The Nation has published two images of Kiptum’s wrecked Toyota, included this:
Runner Milcah Chemos first told the AP that both Kiptum and Hakizimana were in the crash, and that Kiptum’s relatives rushed to the hospital, along with several athletes in the area. Chemos further said that Kiptum’s family have confirmed the world record holder’s death.
A local police commander, Peter Mulinge, has since confirmed Kiptum and Hakizimana’s deaths.
Kiptum was deep into his training for the upcoming Rotterdam Marathon, which is to take place on April 14. Rotterdam is sponsored by NN, a Dutch insurance company that also sponsors Kiptum. The race was clearly being structured around the world record holder. Kiptum had said he was going to attempt running the first sub-two hour marathon on a sanctioned course.
Kiptum’s world record, set in Chicago last October, stands at 2:00:35. When the Kenyan returned home, he was celebrated as a national hero:
Kiptum seemed on the verge of a historic year. He was an obvious choice for the highly competitive Kenyan marathon squad at the Paris Olympics, and would have undoubtably been the main challenger to unseat Eliud Kipchoge, who many view as the greatest marathoner of all-time. Kiptum’s world record surpassed Kipchoge’s, and he seemed the heir apparent at the distance.
Kiptum’s rise in distance running was meteoric: he emerged out on the scene seemingly out of no where in 2022. He then produced three of the greatest performances of all time in his first attempts at the marathon.
Kiptum became legendary for his intense training, surpassing 300 kilometers a week with jaw-dropping workouts. He seemed unbeatable.
Kiptum is survived by his two young children and his wife, Asenath Rotich.
We will update this story with further details as it develops.