LONDON Marathon winner and world record holder Kelvin Kiptum has died aged just 24.
The Kenyan long distance runner was killed alongside his coach Garvais Hakizimana in a car crash.
Kiptum won the London Marathon in April last year and broke the course record, crossing the line in two hours one minute and 25 seconds.
Just months later he smashed the world marathon record in Chicago, completing the 26 mile race in just two hours and 35 seconds.
International track federation World Athletics had only ratified his records last week.
Kenya’s former prime minister Raila Odinga confirmed Kiptum had died on X, writing: “Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual, Kelvin Kiptum, World Record holder and Kenyan athletics icon.
“Together with his coach, they tragically passed on in an accident tonight.”
“My deepest condolences to his loved ones, friends, and the entire athletics fraternity.
How Kelvin Kiptum went from borrowing shoes to winning London Marathon
Kelvin Kiptum was renowned for being the only person in history to run the marathon in under two hours and one minute.
But the Kenyan, 24, had to rise from the depths of poverty prior to his remarkable success.
When he lined up for his first major local competition in 2018, Kiptum did so wearing borrowed running shoes because he could not afford a pair of his own.
Kiptum began his career on the road, breaking away from the past tradition of athletes starting on the track before switching to longer distances.
But that wasn’t out of choice.
Kiptum claims he made the decision purely because of a lack of resources.
“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he explained to BBC Sport Africa.
“My training place is far from a track, so I started training with road-running guys – and that’s how I got into marathon.”
“Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”
The crash happened on a road in Western Kenya – a high-altitude area commonly used as a training base for long-distance athletes.
Most read in Athletics
Kiptum described his astonishing rise to success in an interview with the BBC last year.
He ran his first major local competition in borrowed shoes, as he couldn’t afford a pair himself.
Kiptum said: “It has been a long journey for me through my career.
“I have been trying so hard to pursue this dream to run a world record.
“It has come true and I am really happy. My life has now changed.”
His coach Hakizimana – who also died in the smash – told of how he knew Kiptum from a young boy in the same interview.
He said: “I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefooted.
“It was in 2009, I was training near his father’s farm, he’d come kicking at my heels and I would chase him away.
“Now, I am grateful to him for his achievement.”
London Marathon organisers said: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear the terrible news of the death of marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.
“The thoughts of everyone at the TCS London Marathon are with Kelvin’s and Gervais’ family and friends.”
World Athletics president Seb Coe said: “On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.
“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.”
Local reports state that a second passenger, a lady identified as Sharon Kosgey, was in the car at the time of the crash.
She survived the impact but with serious injuries, and was rushed to Racecourse Hospital for medical attention.
The bodies of Kiptum and Hakiziman were taken to the hospital’s mortuary.
Elgeyo Marakwet Police Commander Petr Mulinge confirmed the accident took place at approximately 11pm (8pm GMT) on Sunday.
According to Mulinge, Kiptum had lost control of the vehicle, veering off the road and landing in a ditch about 60 metres away before colliding with a tree.
He added that Kiptum and Hakizimana “died on the spot”.
READ MORE SUN STORIES
Kiptum was currently training to run just under two hours at the Rotterdam Marathon on April 14.
He had also been selected by Kenya for this summer’s 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Why it took Kiptum 23 YEARS to agree to run a marathon
Kiptum may have been a world record holder and champion but it took a lot of convincing to get him to run in the first place.
According to his coach Garvais Hakizimana – who died alongside him this week – Kiptum needed time to warm up to the idea of running a marathon.
The Kenyan initially feared that it might be too tough.
“He had some fear and preferred the shorter half-marathon until 2022 when he finally agreed to a marathon,” Hakizimana told BBC Sport Africa.
Fast forward a few years and Kiptum would have 42km triumphs in Valencia, London and Chicago.
But there were also other complications getting in the way of Kiptum fulfilling his potential.
Kiptum had to convince his family that he could make it in athletics.
His father had been adamant that he should go to college instead.
“He wanted me to study to pursue my diploma to be an electrician but I was saying that I needed to be an athlete – I had that passion,” Kiptum recalled.
“That period was very hard for me because I trained for four years, yet there were no successes and they were disappointed in me. But I kept on pushing.”
Eventually his father came around, even occasionally helping him get to early morning training on time.
Source: Athletics - thesun.co.uk