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Marathon world record holder dies in road accident

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The men’s marathon world record holder, Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum, 24, has died in a road accident in his home country.

According to BBC reports, 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 26.1 miles (42km) in two hours and 35 seconds.

The two athletes had been named in Kenya’s provisional marathon team for the Paris Olympics later this year.

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Paying tribute to Kiptum, Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba wrote on X: “Devastatingly sickening!! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”

Kenya’s opposition leader and former prime minister, Raila Odinga, said the country had lost “a true hero” and was mourning “a remarkable individual… and Kenyan athletics icon”.

Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said Kiptum was “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly”.

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”.

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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.

The rise to fame for the father-of-two had been rapid – he only ran his first full marathon in 2022.

He competed in his first major competition four years earlier running in borrowed shoes as 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.

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Kiptum told the BBC last year that his unusual choice was simply determined by a lack of resources.

“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.

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“Now, I am grateful to him for his achievement.”

 

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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