Tributes poured in on Monday for Kenyan running sensation Kelvin Kiptum after the marathon world record-holder was killed in a car crash at the age of 24.
The favourite for the Paris 2024 Olympics was driving from Kaptagat to Eldoret in the Rift Valley of western Kenya around 11 pm (2000 GMT) on Sunday when his car came off the road and hit a tree.
Kiptum, a father of two, and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed while a woman passenger was seriously injured, police said.
“He lost control and veered off-road entering into a ditch on his left side. He drove in the ditch for about 60 metres (yards) before hitting a big tree,” said an official police report from Elegyo Marakwet County where the accident occurred.
It said Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot while the passenger Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei was rushed to hospital with serious injuries.
Images on Kenyan media showed the mangled wreck of the vehicle, its windscreen shattered, the roof and doors buckled and almost ripped off.
Kiptum exploded onto the marathon scene when he ran a world record 2:00:35 in Chicago in October, taking 34 seconds off fellow Kenyan star Eliud Kipchoge’s previous record.
He was just 23 at the time, and competing in only his third marathon.
Kiptum also won his other two efforts — his debut in Valencia in 2022 and a follow-up in London the following year.
“Arguably one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record,” Kenyan President William Ruto said on X, describing Kiptum as “our future” and “an extraordinary sportsman”.
– ‘Incredible athlete’ –
From herding goats just a decade ago, Kiptum had announced he would attempt in April to become the first man to run an official marathon under the mythic two-hour mark.
World Athletics said his debut was the fastest in history and mourned the loss of “one of the most exciting new prospects to emerge in road running in recent years”.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement.
Coe said only last week he had been in Chicago to officially ratify Kiptum’s historic time.
“An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”
Faith Kipyegon, who has set world records in the 1500m and the 5,000m, left a wordless tribute on X: three crying emojis an