Kelvin Kiptum: Runner’s father wants investigation after four ‘unidentified people’ visited house

The crashed car that marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum was driving sits in front of the Police Station in Kaptagat, Kenya, 12 February 2024.
The wreckage of the car crash in which Kelvin Kiptum died - Shutterstock

The father of the world marathon record holder who was killed in a car accident has called for an official investigation after saying that four ‘unidentified people’ came looking for his son in the days before his death.

Kelvin Kiptum, whose impact on marathon running has been compared to Usain Bolt’s breakthrough in sprinting, died after the car he was driving in Kenya on Sunday night veered off the road and into a ditch before hitting a tree.

His coach Gervais Hakizimana was also killed but a third passenger in the Toyota Premio, Sharon Chepkirui Kosgei, was taken to hospital in nearby Eldoret where she was later discharged. “He drove in the ditch for about 60 metres before hitting a big tree,” a police statement said.

In an interview with the Kenyan broadcaster Citizen TV, Kiptum’s father Samson Cheruiyot said that he had spoken to his son on the day before his death and appealed to the Kenya Government to conduct an investigation.

‘He was my only child’

“There are people who came home a while back who were looking for Kiptum but they refused to identify themselves – I asked them to provide identification, but they opted to leave. It was a group of four people,” said Cheruiyot.

“I got the news of my son’s death while I was watching the news. I went to the scene of the accident but the police had taken the body to Eldoret. Kiptum was my only child.

“If he was alive, we would have great opportunities ahead. At our age, we don’t have any help and he has left children.”

Kiptum, who was 24, was regarded as a once in a generation talent after winning his first three marathons, including a course record in London last April before becoming the first man under to go under 2hr 1min when he set a new world record in Chicago in October.

He was favourite for Olympic gold in Paris and had told his father that he was ready to become the first man to run the 26.2-mile distance in under two hours in an official race at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.

“He told me someone will come and help us build a house – he said that his body is now fit, and he can now run for 1:59,” said Cheruiyot.

Kiptum died on the road between Elodret and Kaptagat, an area that is home to many of the best endurance runners in the world, including Eliud Kipchoge, the previous world record holder and the reigning double Olympic champion. A first head-to-head race between Kipchoge and Kiptum was expected to be one of the highlights of the Paris Olympics.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic passing of the marathon world record holder and rising star Kelvin Kiptum,” said Kipchoge. “An athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness. I offer my deepest condolences to his young family. May God comfort you during this trying time.”

Fellow Kenyan long-distance runners, including double Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon were pictured visiting the Racecourse Mortuary in Eldoret on Monday.

Kiptum’s death has left Kenya, and the wider world athletics community, in a state of shock and mourning. Sir Mo Farah called Kiptum a “special talent” who would have gone on to have “an incredible career”.

‘It’s like it was a given he would go under two hours’

Emile Cairess, who was sixth in London last year behind Kiptum and the first British finisher, said the Kenyan could have become “Usain Bolt-esque” as a “figurehead of athletics”.

“It’s a massive blow because, at his level, someone can really capture the attention of people outside of the sport,” Cairess told the BBC.

“Many people thought they would never see a sub two-hour marathon in their lifetimes but since he came along, it’s like it was just a given that he would do it.”

Kiptum was named the ‘off track’ athlete of the year by World Athletics in December and, having begun serious running barefoot while also herding cattle, had never set foot on an athletics track.

“I had no track to train on,” he explained. “I was a herdsman for many years. It was my life, as it was for a lot of others. But I had to find time for my running.”

Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said that Kiptum was “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy”.

Hugh Brasher, the London Marathon event director, said that he “was set to redefine the boundaries of our sport”.

Kiptum is survived by his wife Asenath Rotich and their two children.

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