Tributes from across the global running community have been paid to the reigning TCS London Marathon champion, course record holder, and world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who died alongside his coach in a car accident in Kenya.
Hugh Brasher, the TCS London Marathon Event Director, said Kiptum had the ‘sport of marathon running in his feet and at his feet’ while the great Eliud Kipchoge said his compatriot had ‘a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness’.
Kiptum, 24, was travelling in a car with his coach Gervais Hakizimana and Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei in Kaptagat, south-west Kenya, when he lost control of the vehicle. Kiptum and Hakizimana were both killed in the accident while Kosgei was taken to hospital with serious injuries.
The news has stunned Kenya and the worldwide running community.
Kenya’s minister for sports Ababu Namwamba said ‘Kenya has lost a special gem’, while the President of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, described Kiptum as an ‘incredible athlete, leaving an incredible legacy’.
Sir Mo Farah, Britain’s greatest distance runner, said Kiptum had a ‘special talent…and would have gone on to have an incredible career’, while Sifan Hassan, who won the women’s race at both last year’s TCS London Marathon and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – races Kiptum won in the men’s division – said she was 'deeply saddened'.
Kiptum’s rise to the top of world marathon running had been stunning. He made his debut at the Valencia Marathon in December 2022 which he won in 2:01:53, the fastest marathon debut of all time. He then made his Abbott World Marathon Majors debut at the 2023 TCS London Marathon last April where he destroyed a world-class field to win in 2:01:25, smashing Kipchoge’s course record in the process.
His final marathon, and the highlight of his tragically short career, was last October’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon where he ran a jaw-dropping time of 2:00:35 to shatter Kipchoge’s world record.
Aged just 24, Kiptum had plenty of years of racing to look forward to. He was tipped to challenge the historic two-hour barrier at the Rotterdam Marathon this spring before turning his attention to the Paris 2024 Olympics where he was due to face Kipchoge for the first time.
It was a contest that would have had millions around the world glued to their TV screens. Kipchoge, the reigning Olympic champion and only man to run sub two hours for a marathon, versus Kiptum, the new world record holder and pretender to his crown. Tragically, that duel will never now happen, and we can only speculate at what might have been if this shocking accident had not occurred.
Quite what Kiptum would have gone on to achieve is anyone’s guess but as TCS London Marathon Event Director Hugh Brasher said, there is little doubt he was ‘set to redefine the boundaries of our sport’.
Brasher said: “Kelvin had the sport of marathon running in his feet and at his feet. He was a once-in-a-generation athlete who was set to redefine the boundaries of our sport. Three marathons, three wins. The fastest marathon debutant in Valencia, London's course record holder and the world record holder in Chicago, all within the space of less than 12 months. His was a flame that burned so bright and was tragically put out.
“As a sport we mourn for a life so tragically cut short, a talent and a work ethos that was only starting to be appreciated and a man that we had only just started to know.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends and those of his coach Gervais.
“We hope that Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei, who was travelling with them, makes a full and speedy recovery.”