Kenyan distance runner Agnes Tirop (© Getty Images)
World Athletics is deeply shocked and saddened by the untimely death of Kenya’s Agnes Tirop at the age of 25 at her home in Iten.
One of the world’s leading distance runners, Tirop broke the women-only world record for 10km last month, clocking 30:01 in Herzogenaurach. She was also the 2015 world cross-country champion, a two-time world medallist over 10,000m, and had placed fourth over 5000m at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“Kenya has lost a jewel,” Athletics Kenya said in a statement. “She was one of the fastest-rising athletics giants on the international stage thanks to her eye-catching performances on the track.”
"Athletics has lost one of its brightest young stars in the most tragic circumstances," said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. "World cross country champion at just 19, Agnes Jebet Tirop burst on to the global scene in 2015 and has been one of the world’s best female distance runners over the past six years. This is a terrible blow to the entire athletics community, but especially to her family, her friends and Athletics Kenya and I send them all our most heartfelt condolences."
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also paid tribute to Tirop.
"It is unsettling, utterly unfortunate and very sad that we've lost a young and promising athlete who, at a young age of 25 years, had brought our country so much glory through her exploits on the global athletics stage including in this year's 2020 Tokyo Olympics where she was part of the Kenyan team," said Kenyatta. "It is even more painful that Agnes, a Kenyan hero by all measures, painfully lost her young life through a criminal act perpetuated by selfish and cowardly people."
Born in Uasin Gishu County, Tirop first came to prominence in 2012 when, aged 16, she notched up a series of podium finishes in national-level cross-country races.
Those performances earned her a place on Kenya’s team for the African Cross Country Championships in Cape Town where she secured the silver medal, finishing behind Faith Kipyegon. Later that year, Tirop secured another podium finish at a major event, taking bronze over 5000m at the World U20 Championships in Barcelona.
Tirop turned the tables on Kipyegon at the start of 2013, securing a rare victory over her compatriot at the Kenya Cross Country meeting in Kericho. The finish was a lot closer at the World Cross Country Championships two months later, where Kipyegon finished a whisker ahead of Tirop to take gold.
Outdoors that year, Tirop improved her PBs across all track distances and raced on the senior international circuit, performing well in Diamond League races.
She capped her U20 career in 2014 with victory at the African Cross Country Championships in March and then earned another 5000m bronze medal at the World U20 Championships in Oregon.
Tirop joined the senior ranks in 2015, though few could have predicted how soon she’d make an impression on the global distance-running scene. She claimed a surprise triumph at the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, becoming the second-youngest winner of the senior women’s title in the history of the event.
She continued to compete across a range of distances and on various surfaces, but shifted her focus to the 10,000m in 2017. After winning the Kenyan trial race at that distance, she took bronze at the World Championships in London in a PB of 31:03.50.
Tirop replicated that feat in 2019, taking another World Championships bronze over 10,000m in a PB performance, this time clocking 30:25.20. Earlier in the year she had set PBs of 14:20.68 for 5000m and 8:27.51 for 3000m.
She raced sparingly in 2020 but reduced her 3000m PB to 8:22.92 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha. 2021 was another lean racing year for Tirop, but she focused on quality rather than quantity; she finished third at Kenya’s Olympic Trials, placed fourth at the Olympic Games over 5000m and then turned to the roads with a 10km world record of 30:01 in Herzogenaurach.
Her most recent race was a second-place finish over 10km in Geneva on 3 October, clocking 30:20.