BBC NEWS AFRICA – The men’s marathon world record holder, Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum, 24, has died in a road accident in his home country.
He was killed alongside his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, in a car on a road in western Kenya on Sunday.
Kiptum made a breakthrough in 2023 as a rival to compatriot Eliud Kipchoge – one of the greatest marathon runners.
And it was in Chicago last October that Kiptum bettered Kipchoge’s achievement, clocking the 26.2 miles (42km) in two hours and 35 seconds.
Paying tribute to Kiptum, Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba wrote on X: “Devastatingly sickening!! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”
Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said Kiptum was “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy”.
The road accident happened at about 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Sunday, police were quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Giving further details of the crash, police said Kiptum was the driver, and the vehicle “lost control and rolled, killing the two on the spot”.
A spokesman quoted by AFP added that the third passenger – who was female – had been injured and “rushed to hospital”.
Just last week, his team announced that he would attempt to run the distance in under two hours at the Rotterdam marathon – a feat that has never been achieved in open competition.
He made an instant impact over the distance as he ran the then fourth fastest time on record (2:01:53) to win the Valencia Marathon before setting a course record of 2:01:25 at the London Marathon in April 2023.
Six months later, in just his third marathon, Kiptum took 34 seconds off the world record time in Chicago in his final race.
He had already honed a distinct tactical approach that saw him run with the pack for 30kms before upping the pace and going out on his own for the remainder of the race.
Kiptum competed in his first major competition in 2018 running in borrowed shoes because he could not afford a pair of his own.
He was among a new crop of Kenyan athletes who began their careers on the road, breaking away from the past tradition of athletes starting on the track before switching to longer distances.
“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he explained.
His coach, Hakizimana, 36, was a retired Rwandese runner. Last year, he spent months helping Kiptum target the world record.
Their relationship as coach and athlete began in 2018, but the pair first met when the world record holder was much younger.
“I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefooted,” Hakizimana recalled last year. “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.”