Kelvin Kiptum  made his international debut in 2019 while still a teenager and clocked 59:54 to finish fifth at the Lisbon Half Marathon. / Photo - X - Kiptum 

By Dayo Yusuf

A hero, a star, a master, a legend. No adjective is too big to describe the Kenyan superstar Kelvin Kiptum.

He died on Sunday night alongside his coach, Rwandan Gervais Hakizimana, in a tragic road accident while one other passenger was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Tributes continue to pour in from within Kenyan and beyond as many remember the promising athlete whose life was cut short at his prime.

Kenya's President William Ruto sent his condolences to his family and Kenyans at large describing Kiptum as a star and one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure the world's marathon record.

''An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark in the globe. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting fraternity. Rest In Peace.'' said President Ruto.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said the world had lost an incredible athlete who has left an incredible legacy.

''It was only earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon world record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time.'' said Coe

The rise of the Legend

Kelvin Kiptum was born and raised in Kenya's Chepsamo village in Chepkorio, 30 kilometres from Eldoret town in the Rift Valleyregion, popularly known as the land of heroes. Many Kenyan athletes come from the same area.

 Kelvin Kiptum has died less than a week after his marathon world record was ratified by World Athletics / Photo X - Kiptum 

Kiptum worked on his family’s cattle farm in his youth. He started running at the age of 13 and would follow local marathon runners on the local trails and roads.

He entered his first half marathon – the Eldoret Half Marathon – and finished 10th overall. Just five years later, in 2018 at the age of 18, he won the race.

He made his international debut in 2019 while still a teenager, and clocked 59:54 to finish fifth at the Lisbon Half Marathon.

Before moving up to the classic distance, Kiptum reduced his half marathon PB to 58:42 at the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon. Between 2019 and 2021, Kiptum broke 60 minutes for the half marathon on six occasions.

He excelled at longer distances as was apparent in 2022 when he tackled the giant-ridden Valencia Marathon. Kiptum made history by clocking the fastest ever time by a marathon debutant when he timed 2:01:53 on his way to victory.

He proved that his win in Spain was not a fluke when he timed 2:01:25 to win the London Marathon in April — in what was then the second fastest time in the men’s marathon.

Kiptum shot to the apex of the road racing world when he clocked a world record of 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon in October 2023.

Heroic send off

Kiptum, whose next race was the Rotterdam Marathon in April, was due to be one of the star attractions at the summer Olympics in Paris, France, after he was named in Team Kenya men’s marathon squad for the games.

His demise comes less than a week after his marathon world record was ratified by World Athletics.

Meanwhile Kenya's Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba said Kiptum will be given a heroic send off befitting his status.

“Kelvin Kiptum is a national hero by any standard… by any stretch of imagination. We will honour him in death as we honoured him in life,'' said Namwamba.

''We will be travelling in the next couple of hours to view Kelvin’s remains and to consult with the family,” Namwamba said.

Kiptum leaves behind a wife and two children.

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TRT Afrika