February 2024SportsInternational News

Men’s Marathon World Record Holder Kelvin Kiptum Dies in a Car Crash

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Clare Dueweke
Staff Writer

The running community and world were shocked on February 11 when up-and-coming men’s marathon star, 24-year-old Kelvin Kiptum, was pronounced dead. According to CNN, Kiptum, who was driving in his home country of Kenya, lost control of his Toyota Premio and veered off into a ditch at around 11 pm local time. Alongside Kiptum, his long-time Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana was killed at the scene of the crash. Another passenger was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. 

Just last October, BBC News reported that Kiptum proved himself faster than the esteemed Eliud Kipchoge by finishing the 26.2 mile run in two hours and 35 seconds. This race made Kiptum the world record holder in the men’s marathon. Reuters explained that this feat was impressive because Kiptum had only ever run three marathons before, all of which fell in the fastest seven times ever recorded. Kiptum had his mind set to break the two hour mark this upcoming April at a race in Rotterdam. If done, this would place him as an equal competitor to Kipchoge, who in 2019 was the first man to break two hours in the marathon, though on a non-competitive course, according to TIME

The running community looked forward to the highly anticipated face-off between Kiptum and Kipchoge, who would have both raced in the 2024 Paris Olympics. This would have been Kiptum’s Olympic debut, bringing him to an even larger national stage, according to Reuters.

The Daily Mail reported that besides racing, Kiptum was constructing a home in Eldoret, Kenya for his wife, Asenath Cheruto Rotich and his two sons. Kiptum’s father, Samson Cheruiyot, was devastated by the loss of his only child and said that his son had promised to buy him a house and car through running. According to The Independent, Cheruiyot has requested an official investigation into Kiptum’s death after claiming that four “unidentified people” visited his house looking for Kiptum just a few days prior to his untimely death. Kiptum was dedicated to uplifting his family through his running career, a passion which he followed against his father’s desires for him to be an electrical engineer. Instead Kiptum followed his passions. It is unclear at this time how the investigation will be pursued.

Though Kiptum’s death might seem like a freak accident, untimely deaths in traffic incidents are a growing issue in Africa. Vox reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that traffic-related deaths increased by 17 percent in the last 10 years, which is contrary to the decreasing numbers that have become the common world trend. In the past 10 to 20 years, Africa’s large economic growth has caused an increase in motorization. The issue with this growth is that parts of Africa have not been able to keep roads and other infrastructure up to pace. The WHO has called this increase in preventable accidents “a growing and under-recognized public health issue.” Many of these accidents could be easily prevented through investments in features like helmets, swimming classes and improving car safety. 

Reuters reported that on Feb. 22, Kenyans came together to pay their respects to Kiptum at his funeral procession. He was buried on Feb. 23 in his home village where he worked as a livestock herder prior to becoming an elite athlete. The pathologist concluded that head injuries were the primary cause of his death. His coach Hakizimana will be buried in his home country of Rwanda. The Kenyan president, William Ruto, will provide Kiptum’s widow, son, and daughter with the home that Kiptum once promised would result from his accomplishments.

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