World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach died in an accident

(CNN) — Current marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptom and his coach Gervais Hakizimana died in a traffic accident outside the Rift Valley town of Eldoret on Sunday night, Kenyan police confirmed.

The 24-year-old Kenyan athlete, who was driving a Toyota Premio, and his coach died at the scene of the crash, Elgeyo Marakwet County Police Commander Peter Mulinge told CNN.

Mulinge said the third person survived and suffered serious injuries.

“He lost control, went off the road, went 60 meters into a ditch and hit a big tree,” Mulinge said. The accident happened at around 11 pm local time.

Kiptum’s world marathon record of 2:00:35, set at the Chicago Marathon in October last year, was approved by the World Athletics Association just a few days ago. A year before breaking the record, Kiptum had given up short distance running and turned to the marathon.

He improved his personal best by 50 seconds and broke the record of 2:01:09 held by his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, who is considered the best marathon runner of all time. Kiptom was considered Kipchoge’s successor and a potential contender for the sub-two-hour marathon.

Hakizimana, 36, was a Rwandan professional athlete who competed in various races ranging from 5,000 meters to half marathon.

The remains of the vehicle in which Kenyan marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptom and his coach died in a traffic accident near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret on 12 February.  (Credit: Reuters)

The remains of the vehicle in which Kenyan marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptom and his coach died in a traffic accident near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret on 12 February. (Credit: Reuters)

“A tragic loss”

Celebrities from across the world of athletics and long-distance running paid tribute and mourned the passing of an athlete at his peak.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said Kiptum was “an incredible athlete who leaves an incredible legacy. He will be greatly missed.”

“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptom and his coach Gervais Hakizimana,” Coe said. “On behalf of all of World Athletics, we express our deepest condolences to his families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.”

“Earlier this week in Chicago, where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon world record, I was able to officially confirm his historic time,” Coe said.

“On behalf of all our colleagues at Golazzo (management group) and his friends, we express our deepest condolences to his family, friends and the entire Athletics family,” Verbeek said in a statement.

Condolence messages also poured in on Kiptom’s official Instagram account after the news of his death was announced.

London Marathon organizers they shared A message on X. “We are shocked and deeply saddened. The thoughts of everyone at TCS London Marathon are with the family and friends of Kelvin and Gervais.”

Kerry Pinkowski, executive race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, said Kiptum’s loss will be felt in Chicago, where Kiptum made history in 2023.

“Calvin was a once-in-a-generation athlete,” Pinkowski said. “While he will be celebrated for his record-breaking performances, I will remember him as an incredible talent and an even more brilliant person.”

“We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to witness his greatness on the streets of Chicago,” he said. “The sport of marathon has suffered a tragic loss.”

Kenyan Olympians have also expressed regret. Double Olympic gold medalist David Rudisha, who survived a plane crash in 2022, called Kiptum’s death a “huge loss.” “My condolences to the families, friends, athletic fraternity and Kenya in general,” Rudisha wrote on X.

“I am shocked to learn of the tragic accident that took the lives of Kevin Kiptom and his coach today,” said Bernard Lagat, a five-time Olympian and middle-distance runner. “They’re gone too soon. RIP Champion.”

Australian Robert de Castella, a former world marathon champion, said: “A rising superstar is gone. It highlights how precious life is and how vulnerable we all are.”

The former Prime Minister of Kenya was also among those who paid tribute. On his X account, Raila Odinga called the death “devastating news” and praised Kiptom as an icon of Kenyan athletics. “Our nation mourns the passing of a true hero.”

Kenya’s Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba also expressed his condolences in X: “Kenya has lost a special gem. Without words.”

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