Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum, who was set to be a superstar, has died in a car crash

His record, set at last year’s Chicago Marathon, was ratified by international track federation World Athletics just last week

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Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya celebrates his Chicago Marathon world record victory in Chicago's Grant Park on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. According to a fellow athlete, Kiptum died in a car crash in Kenya late Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. He was 24. Photo: Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune via AP

NAIROBI — Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum, who was set to be a superstar of long-distance running and was a top contender for gold at the Olympics in Paris this year, was killed along with his coach in a car crash in Kenya.

Their vehicle was the only one involved in the crash late Sunday and Kiptum was driving when it veered off a road and into a ditch before hitting a tree, police said.

Kenya’s Kiptum was 24 and one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in road running in years, having broken the world record in only his third appearance in an elite marathon. His record, set at last year’s Chicago Marathon, was ratified by international track federation World Athletics just last week.

His death reverberated through Kenya, where runners are the biggest sports stars. Kenyans have also gotten used to tragic tales involving their top athletes after a number have died in road crashes, other accidents and domestic violence cases.

“He was only 24,” Kenyan President William Ruto said in a statement offering his condolences. “Kiptum was our future.”

Kiptum and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana, were killed in the crash at around 11 p.m., police said. It happened near the town of Kaptagat in western Kenya, in the heart of the high-altitude region that’s renowned as a training base for the best distance runners from Kenya and across the world.

Kiptum was born and raised in the area.

The wreckage of the vehicle in which world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his Rwandese coach, Garvais Hakizimana, were traveling in before they were involved Sunday night in a fatal road crash, is brought at Kaptabat police station, near Eldoret, Kenya, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. According to Kenyan police, Kiptum was driving the sedan when he lost control and crashed along a road in Uasin Gishu county on their way to his training camp in Kapsabet, western Kenya, killing him and Hakizimana on the spot. Photo: AP

A third person, a 24-year-old woman, was also in the car and was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, police said. Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the scene.

Athletes and family members, including Kiptum’s father, gathered at the hospital mortuary where the bodies of Kiptum and his coach were taken. One of the athletes, former women’s steeplechase world champion Milcah Chemos, struggled to speak while breaking down in tears.

“I have no words to explain the loss of Kelvin,” she said.

Kenneth Kimaiyo, a friend of Kiptum, said he arrived at the crash scene soon after it happened and Kiptum had been thrown out of the car. Photos showed the silver car with a badly mangled roof and the windshield crushed flat.

Kiptum was the first man to run the marathon in under 2 hours, 1 minute in an official race when he set the world record of 2:00.35 in Chicago in October, beating the mark of fellow Kenyan and marathon great Eliud Kipchoge, who is the reigning two-time Olympic champion.

Men’s race winner Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya holds a trophy together with women’s race winner Sifan Hassan, unseen, of the Netherlands after the London Marathon in London on April 23, 2023. Kiptum was killed along with his coach in a car crash in Kenya late Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/AP File

Kiptum and Kipchoge were expected to provide an enticing all-Kenyan battle for marathon gold in Paris and Kiptum was due to start his season at the Rotterdam Marathon in April, which would have been his first event since breaking the world record.

“An athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness,” Kipchoge said in a message paying tribute.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe was one of the first to offer his condolences in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana,” Coe wrote.

“It was only earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon World Record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time. An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”

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About Associated Press

Founded in 1846, The Associated Press is a non-profit news agency that operates as a cooperative, unincorporated association. Its members are U.S. newspapers and broadcasters.

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