Kenyans flood social media with tributes to Kelvin Kiptum

Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum. [Getty]

The world of athletics is mourning the death of Kelvin Kiptum, the Kenyan marathoner who set a new world record of 2:00:35 in Chicago last year.

 Kiptum, 24, and his coach Gervais Hakizimana, 36, were killed in a road accident on Sunday, February 11, while driving from Eldoret to their home in Kaptagat.

According to police, Kiptum’s car lost control and hit a tree at Flax Junction, along the Eldoret-Ravine highway.

The impact was fatal for both Kiptum and Hakizimana, a former Rwandan runner who competed in various distances from 5,000 meters to half marathon.

A woman who was in the back seat of the car survived with injuries and was taken to a hospital in Eldoret.

Kiptum’s world record was ratified by World Athletics just days before his death.

He had improved his personal best by 50 seconds, surpassing the previous record of 2:01:09 held by his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge.

Kiptum had also won marathons in Valencia, London, and other major events.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe expressed his shock and sadness over the loss of Kiptum and Hakizimana.

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

Kiptum’s manager Bob Verbeeck also paid tribute to the athlete, calling him a “beloved friend”.

 “On behalf of all our colleagues and his friends at Golazo (Management Group), we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, and all in the athletics family,” Verbeeck said in a statement.

Carey Pinkowski, Executive Race Director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, where Kiptum made history in 2023, said his death was a tragic loss for the sport of marathon.

 “Kelvin was a once-in-a-generation athlete at the front of his career. While he will be celebrated for his record-breaking performances, I will remember him as an incredible talent and as an even more magnificent person. We were lucky to witness his greatness on the streets of Chicago,” Pinkowski said.

Condolence messages from fellow athletes in Kenya and around the world have poured in following the news of Kiptum’s death.

Olympian Eliud Kipchoge said he was deeply saddened by the passing of the marathon world record holder and rising star. “An athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness,” Kipchoge said.

Double Olympic gold medalist David Rudisha also described Kiptum’s death as a huge loss. “I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn the passing of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana. My condolences to the families, friends, athletic fraternity, and Kenya at large. This is a huge loss,” Rudisha said.

President William Ruto praised Kiptum as a star and one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record.

“He was only 24 yet, as a hero, triumphed in Valencia, Chicago, London, and other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future,” Ruto said.

 “An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark on the globe. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting fraternity. Rest In Peace.”

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga also paid his respects to Kiptum, calling him an athletics icon. “Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual. Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero,” Odinga said.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba said Kenya had lost a special gem.

 “We join the rest of the world in celebrating his achievements and mourning his demise. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Namwamba said.