Kenya's Olympic marathon champion pulls out of London event

09:05, March 29, 2011      

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Kenya's Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru has pulled out of the London marathon set for April 17 citing a knee injury.

The news is a blow to the race organizers as Wanjiru, a former winner in 2009 and silver medallist in 2008, was expected to give reigning champion Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia a race of his life having beaten him in Chicago last October.

However, Wanjiru's agent Federico Rosa confirmed that Wanjiru will not be honouring the call top run in London Street and instead his other athlete Martin Lel, a three time winner of London marathon has been drafted in.

"It is official that Wanjiru will not be running in London. It is a pity but we have to give him time to recover and heal," Wanjiru's agent, Rosa said on Monday.

Last year, Kebede became only the second Ethiopian to take the men' s crown when he beat Kenya's Emmanuel Mutai and the Moroccan Jaouad Gharib.

But with the withdrawal of Wanjiru, it will be simpler for him to retain the title, though the elite field still holds the biggest name and fastest time set over the 42km race.

Wanjiru won in London in 2009, but dropped out at halfway last year through a knee injury and has not raced since winning the Chicago Marathon last October.

But it seems his knee has got better of him and he will have to contend with a spectator role as top athletes battle for the crown.

All six medal winners from 2010 will be on the start line again but with six men in the field quicker than two hours and six minutes, and no fewer than 14 women with sub-2:24 personal bests.

This means that gaining a podium place in 2011 will be tougher than ever. The race has a price money of 50,000 US dollars for the winner but higher amounts in appearance fees.

Both line-ups read like a virtual who's who of marathon running, each featuring the top five in London last year, world champions, World Marathon Majors champions, and recent winners in Berlin, Chicago and New York.

Kenya's interest will now be spearheaded by Berlin marathon champion Patrick Makau 2:04:48, world marathon champion Abel Kirui 2:05:04, Lel, Emmanuel Mutai 2:06:15 for men while women are New York marathon champion Edna Kiplagat 2:25:38 and Mary Keitany 2:29:01.

Wanjiru who still faces a charge of having in his possession a gun without a licence can breathe with sigh after his wife dropped attempted murder charges against him earlier this year.

"I am bitterly disappointed not to be able to race in London this year. Winning the London Marathon in 2009 was one of the great achievements of my career and I was hoping to become the London champion again. But I have been suffering some problems with my right knee recently which meant I had to withdraw from the Lisbon half-marathon," said Wanjiru.

"Unfortunately, it has not responded well enough for me to make my final preparations for London. I wish good luck to the other runners and will do my best to be back next year."

Lel won in London in 2005, 2007 and 2008 and, after two years of his own injury problems, now believes he is in shape to challenge for a fourth title.

"Of course we are very sad to lose the Olympic champion from our line-up as Sammy was a great champion here two years ago. We wish him a speedy recovery from his injury problems," said Race director David Bedford.

"But we are also delighted to announce the late addition of Martin Lel, one of the great champions in London Marathon history.

"Martin tells me his training has been going really well and he feels in shape to be able to take on the London challenge again. He is a very welcome addition to what is already a great field."

Source: Xinhua

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