Kelvin Kiptum, who set the world record for the marathon at the Chicago Marathon in October, died Sunday in a car crash in his home country of Kenya.
Kiptum, 24, was expected to compete for the gold medal at the Paris Olympics this summer. His coach, Gervais Hakizimana, also died in the accident, according to The Associated Press, which reported that a second passenger was hospitalized with injuries.
The crash occurred in a high-altitude region in western Kenya that’s a key training zone for Kenyan runners and others, The Associated Press reported. A group of runners went to the hospital after the crash to pay their respects.
One of those athletes, Milcah Chemos, struggled to speak through tears in an interview with The Associated Press.
“I have no words to explain the loss of Kelvin,” she said.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe issued a statement about Kiptum’s legacy soon after his death was announced Sunday, according to The Athletic.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana,” Coe said. “An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”
Just last week, World Athletics verified Kiptum’s time of 2:00:35 in Chicago.
“Kiptum was the first man to run the marathon in under 2 hours, 1 minute in an official race,” The Associated Press reported.
Kiptum was reportedly aiming to finish a marathon in under two hours this spring, according to the BBC.
Kiptum, who competed in borrowed shoes until he had enough money for his own gear, didn’t run his first full marathon until 2022, per the BBC. He trained on the roads of Kenya because he couldn’t afford to travel to formal tracks.
Before Chicago, the world marathon record was held by Kiptum’s fellow Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge and Kiptum were considered frontrunners for this summer’s marathon gold.