Condolences are pouring in after Kenyan marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum died in a car crash in western Kenya late Sunday night.
“Kelvin Kiptum was a star,” said a social media post Monday from Kenyan President William Ruto.
Ruto noted that Kiptum was only 24 yet had triumphed in several major competitions.
“His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future,” Ruto’s post said.
That feeling is shared by many in Kenya, including Jackson Tuwei, president of sports body Athletics Kenya, who spoke to VOA on Monday.
“He was a very humble person, a young family of a wife and two children. Tuwei said. “He had just started his young career and we were hoping he would go pretty far in his career. When I talked to him last time, he was telling me that he was looking forward to bringing the marathon record lower than two hours.”
Kiptum was the first man to run a marathon in under 2 hours, 1 minute when he set the world record of 2 hours and 35 seconds in Chicago last October, beating the previous record holder, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.
The car crash Sunday happened on a road between the towns of Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, Tuwei said.
“The report we received so far from the police was that Kelvin Kiptum was traveling in his own car… but he lost control about 11 o’clock last night and veered off the road into a ditch … and hit a very big tree somewhere there,” he said. “Unfortunately, both Kelvin and his coach [Gervais Hakizimana] lost their lives on the spot and the girl who was in the car had serious injuries and was taken to the hospital.”
Former Kenyan prime minister and opposition leader Raila Odinga described Kiptum as a remarkable individual and said the nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.
At a presser on Monday, Cabinet Secretary for Youth Affairs, Creative Economy, and Sports, Ababu Namwamba, described the day as a very dark day for the athletics community both in Kenya and across the world.
He told reporters the passing of Kiptum was a loss of a special gem and has caused deep distress and pain for the country. Namwamba was to meet with Kiptum’s family on Monday.