The world of athletics is mourning the loss of Kelvin Kiptum, the Kenyan runner who broke the marathon world record last year, and his coach Gervais Hakizimana died in a car accident on Sunday night in Kenya. Kiptum, 24, had just received official recognition from World Athletics for his record-breaking performance of 2:00.35 at the Chicago Marathon in October, where he became the first man to run under 2 hours and 1 minute in a sanctioned race. He was also a strong favorite for the Olympic gold medal in Paris later this year.
The accident occurred around 11 p.m. on a road between Eldoret and Kaptagat, two towns in the western region of Kenya that are home to many elite distance runners. According to Denis Muga, the local police chief, Kiptum was driving the car that hit a tree and rolled over after leaving the road at high speed. He and Hakizimana, his Rwandan coach, died on the spot. A female passenger, whose identity was not disclosed, was seriously injured and taken to a nearby hospital.
Milcah Chemos, a fellow Kenyan athlete and friend of Kiptum, confirmed the deaths and said she went to the hospital with other runners and relatives of Kiptum to identify his body. “It’s a huge shock and a big loss for us,” she said. “He was a humble and talented young man who had a bright future ahead of him.”The Kenyan track federation also expressed its condolences and praised Kiptum as “one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in road running in years.” Kiptum started his career as a track runner, he then switched to the marathon and made an immediate impact, winning his debut race in Amsterdam in 2019 and setting the world record in his third attempt in Chicago.
His coach, Hakizimana, was also a former runner who represented Rwanda at the 2018 competed in the men’s half marathon at the 2018 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships held in Valencia, Spain. He finished in 34th place. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but Muga said it was likely due to speeding and poor visibility at night. He urged drivers to be more careful and respect the traffic rules.