n a devastating turn of events, Kenya’s marathon sensation, Kelvin Kiptum, 24, known for shattering the world record in marathon running, has tragically passed away. The catastrophic road accident, which occurred in western Kenya, also claimed the life of his esteemed coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana. This incident marks a sad moment in athletics, as two prominent figures are lost.
Kiptum, a burgeoning rival to his compatriot, the legendary Eliud Kipchoge, catapulted into the global spotlight with his phenomenal performance in Chicago last October. He surpassed Kipchoge’s record and completed the 26.1-mile marathon in an astounding two hours and 35 seconds. This feat solidified his place as a top contender and a beacon of hope for Kenya in the upcoming Paris Olympics.
Kenya’s Sports Minister, Ababu Namwamba, expressed his profound grief on social media, stating, “Devastatingly sickening!! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.” Similarly, Kenya’s opposition leader and former prime minister, Raila Odinga, mourned the loss of “a true hero” and “a remarkable individual… and Kenyan athletics icon”. President of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe echoed these sentiments, praising Kiptum as “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy. We will miss him dearly.”
The fatal accident occurred around 23:00 local time on Sunday, as reported by the AFP news agency. According to police, Kiptum was driving when the vehicle lost control and rolled, leading to the instantaneous demise of both Kiptum and Hakizimana. A female passenger, also in the car, sustained injuries and was urgently hospitalised.
The loss of Kiptum is not just a blow to the athletics community but also to his journey, which was a testament to his sheer determination and resilience. His ascension to fame was meteoric; he only ran his first full marathon in 2022 and previously competed in a significant competition in 2018 wearing borrowed shoes. Kiptum belonged to a new generation of Kenyan athletes who began their careers on the road, a deviation from the traditional path of transitioning from track to marathon.
Kiptum’s choice of starting directly with road races resulted from financial constraints. “I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he had explained in an interview. His relationship with coach Hakizimana, a retired Rwandese runner, was personal and profound. They met when Kiptum was just a young boy, and Hakizimana remembered chasing him away as he trained near Kiptum’s father’s farm. This bond culminated in a shared dream, with Hakizimana guiding Kiptum to his world record achievement.
The untimely demise of Kelvin Kiptum and Gervais Hakizimana is not only a loss of exceptional talent but also a reminder of the unpredictability and fragility of life. As the world mourns, their legacy in athletics and inspirational stories will continue influencing and motivating future generations.