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SportsKenyan World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum dies in road accident

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Kenyan World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum dies in road accident

Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum, the world record holder in the men’s marathon at 24 years old, tragically passed away in a road accident in his homeland.

The accident claimed the lives of both Kiptum and his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, as they were travelling on a road in western Kenya on Sunday.

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Kiptum had emerged as a formidable competitor to his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, widely regarded as one of the greatest marathon runners.

His breakthrough came in 2023, notably surpassing Kipchoge’s achievement by clocking 26.2 miles (42km) in an impressive two hours and 35 seconds during the Chicago Marathon last October.

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Both Kiptum and Kipchoge had been included in Kenya’s provisional marathon team for the upcoming Paris Olympics later this year, showcasing the promising future that Kiptum’s career held before this tragic incident.

Paying tribute to Kiptum, Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba wrote on X: “Devastatingly sickening!! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”

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Kenya’s opposition leader and former prime minister, Raila Odinga, said the country had lost “a true hero” and was mourning “a remarkable individual… and Kenyan athletics icon.”.

Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said Kiptum was “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy.”

The road accident happened at about 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Sunday, police were quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Giving further details of the crash, police said Kiptum was the driver, and the vehicle “lost control and rolled, killing the two on the spot”.

Kiptum’s car

A spokesman quoted by AFP added that the third passenger, who was female, had been injured and “rushed to the hospital.”.

Just a week ago, his team revealed plans for him to attempt breaking the two-hour barrier at the Rotterdam marathon, a monumental feat yet to be achieved in open competition.

The ascent to stardom for this father-of-two was meteoric; he embarked on his first full marathon journey only in 2022.

Making an immediate impact, he clinched victory at the Valencia Marathon with the then-fourth-fastest time on record (2:01:53), followed by setting a course record of 2:01:25 at the London Marathon in April 2023.

In a remarkable display of talent, just six months later, Kiptum shattered the world record in Chicago in only his third marathon, cutting an impressive 34 seconds off the previous record.

His tactical prowess was evident, employing a distinctive strategy of sticking with the pack for 30 kilometres before accelerating and seizing control of the race on his own.

Kiptum’s journey began in 2018 when he competed in his first major event, donning borrowed shoes due to financial constraints that prevented him from purchasing his own pair.

He represented a new generation of Kenyan athletes who launched their careers in road racing, departing from the conventional path of starting on the track before transitioning to longer distances.

In an interview with the BBC last year, Kiptum attributed his unconventional trajectory to the simple reality of lacking resources.

“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he explained.

His coach, Hakizimana, 36, was a retired Rwandese runner. Last year, he spent months helping Kiptum target the world record.

Their relationship as coach and athlete began in 2018, but the pair first met when the world record holder was much younger.

“I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefoot,” Hakizimana recalled last year. “It was in 2009; I was training near his father’s farm; he’d come kicking at my heels and I would chase him away.

“Now, I am grateful to him for his achievement.”

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