Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum was a superstar of long-distance running. Olympics fans expected him to be a top marathon contender in Paris, France, this summer. Sadly, Kiptum died along with his coach in a car crash in Kenya late Sunday night.
At just 24 years old, the Kenyan was one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in road running in years. He broke the world record in only his third appearance in an elite marathon last year in Chicago, Illinois. International track federation World Athletics confirmed the marathon world record just last week.
Kiptum was driving when the car veered off a road and into a ditch before hitting a tree, according to police.
Kiptum and his Rwandan coach, Gervais Hakizimana, died in the crash near the town of Kaptagat in western Kenya. The town lies in the heart of the high-altitude region renowned as a training base for the best distance runners from Kenya and across the world.
A third person, a 24-year-old woman, was also in the car. She went to a hospital with serious injuries. Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the scene.
Kiptum’s death reverberated through Kenya.
“Kiptum was our future,” says Kenyan President William Ruto. Runners are his country’s biggest sports stars.
“I have no words to explain the loss of Kelvin,” says former women’s steeplechase world champion Milcah Chemos. She struggled to speak while breaking down in tears.
While young and new to the circuit, Kiptum had already run three of the seven fastest marathon times ever recorded. People saw him as a rare talent.
Kiptum was the first man to run the marathon in under two hours, one minute in an official race when he set the world record of 2:00.35 in Chicago. His time beat the mark of fellow Kenyan and marathon great Eliud Kipchoge, the reigning two-time Olympic champion.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe was tasked with confirming Kiptum’s world record. He wrote on social media, “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.”
Distance running fans looked forward to an all-Kenyan battle for marathon gold between Kiptum and Kipchoge in Paris. Kiptum was due to start his season at the Rotterdam Marathon in April. That would have been his first event since breaking the world record.
In a message paying tribute, Kipchoge described Kiptum as “an athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness.”
Except he didn’t.
Death is a terrible result of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Yet God, in His mercy, sent His son Jesus to break the chains of sin and death. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57) Jesus conquered death. He gives eternal life to those who put their hope in Him.