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Kenya loses a premier athlete


WORLD Radio - Kenya loses a premier athlete

Record-holding marathoner Kelvin Kiptum dies in a car accident

Kelvin Kiptum celebrates his Chicago Marathon world record in Chicago's Grant Park, Oct. 8, 2023. Associated Press/Photo by Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the life and death of a marathon runner who set world records. Here’s WORLD’s Lillian Hamman with the story.

LILLIAN HAMMAN: On Sunday, Kenyan long distance runner Kelvin Kiptum died after crashing his car into a tree near Kaptagat, Kenya. He was 24. Kiptum’s 36-year old coach Gervais Hakizamana also died, and 32-year old passenger Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei was taken to the hospital.

NBC ANNOUNCER AT CHI MARATHON: The story of the moment and the story of this marathon is Kelvin Kiptum. We've been talking about him for weeks.

Just five days before the crash, World Athletics ratified Kiptum’s 2 hour and 35 second finish at the 2023 Chicago Marathon as a new world record. Chicago Marathon race director Carey Pinkowski remembers Kiptum jumping into his arms at the finish line after setting the record.

CAREY PINKOWSKI: I can’t help but smile…I think he drew on the on the energy from the city. The city embraced him, I think he embraced the city. He just was just an amazing, young man.

Averaging 4 minutes and 35 seconds per mile for the 26.2 mile race, Kiptum broke the world record in just his third marathon. Kiptum also set the record in his first marathon for the fastest debut ever and ran all of his races faster in the second half than the first.


KELVIN KIPTUM: For now I am very happy. A world record was not in my mind today, but that’s come definitely. But I knew one day one time I’ll be a world record holder.

Kiptum was set to compete at the Rotterdam marathon in April after training to become the first human to officially run a marathon in under 2 hours. Many also expected the 24-year old star to bring home gold for Kenya at the Olympic marathon in August. Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei says now the nation must adjust their Olympic team and expectations.

JACK TUWEI: And his name on the male category was the first one. He was on top. So we had already selected him to go and run in Paris. But unfortunately now he's no longer with us.

Nation Sport reported that Kiptum and his coach were on their way to Eldoret to watch an African football game when they crashed. But Kiptum’s father asked the Kenyan government to investigate foul play from a group of men who came to his house looking for his son a few days before the crash. The men were released yesterday after questioning, but the investigation is still ongoing.

Kenya’s Ministry of Sports will organize Kiptum’s funeral, which is set for Saturday February 24. He leaves behind his wife and two children.

ABABU NAMWAMBA: Kenya, the world, and the fraternity of athletics and sports in general has lost a special, shining, gem.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lillian Hamman.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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