Tributes multiplied on Monday February 12 after the announcement of the death in a road accident of the marathon world record holder, the Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum, favorite for the Olympic title at the Paris Games this summer. The 24-year-old athlete died on Sunday evening around 11 p.m. (8 p.m. GMT) on a road in the Rift Valley region, his home region where he was training.
Two other passengers, its trainer Gervais Hakizimana also killed instantly and a woman taken to hospital, were on board, Elgeyo Marakwet County police commander Peter Mulinge told reporters. “It was Kiptum who was driving towards (the town of) Eldoret,” he added, specifying that the athlete had lost control of the vehicle which had swerved fatally.
Kiptum made a thunderous irruption into the marathon world, beating the world record for the discipline in Chicago last October (2 h 00 min and 35 sec), pulverizing the time of his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge by 34 seconds, for third place. marathon of his career alone. He had also won the previous two, in Valencia in 2022 and London in 2023.
The Kenyan had announced that he would attempt to become the first man to run an official marathon under the symbolic two-hour mark in Rotterdam on April 14. Kenyan President William Ruto on Monday morning saluted the memory of “an extraordinary sportsman who left an extraordinary mark” in sport, praising “his mental strength and discipline” in a message posted on the social network our future,” he said.
This sudden death shook the world of athletics. “Kiptum was one of the most exciting new prospects to emerge in the road running sector in recent years,” the international athletics federation said in a statement.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana,” said its president Sebastian Coe. He paid tribute to “an incredible athlete who leaves an incredible legacy”.
“We will miss him very much,” he concluded. “A few days before the Olympic Games, we mourn the premature departure of a promising talent,” declared the president of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, Paul Tergat, while the double Olympic champion (2012, 2016) Kenyan in the 800 m David Rudisha, regretted “a huge loss”, in messages on X.
Kiptum lost his life not far from his training routes and his original village of Chepkorio, about forty kilometers from Eldoret, in the Rift Valley, a mecca for Kenyan long-distance running. He was trained by Rwandan Gervais Hakizimana, whom he saw training on the roads near his home while tending his herd of goats. Seven years after their first meeting in 2013, Gervais Hakizimana became his full-time coach in 2020.
This death recalls the sudden death of another great Kenyan marathon runner, Samuel Wanjiru, at the same age in 2011, almost three years after his Olympic title in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. A forensic doctor ruled it a murder, saying the athlete had fallen from a balcony before being hit in the head with a “blunt object”.
Kenyan athletics was mourned in October 2021 by the murder of one of its long-distance running hopes Agnes Tirop, found stabbed at the age of 25 in her house in Iten, not far from Eldoret. Her husband is being prosecuted for murder.