Top names pull out but Kenya fields strong world marathon team

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Nairobi, May 22 (IANS) Kenya will still present a strong team to the World Athletics Championships despite the withdrawal of some seasoned runners like Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge and former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang.

Kenya team will have to rely on the service of Paris Marathon champion Paul Lonyangata, London Marathon winner Daniel Wanjiru and Boston Marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui, officials said.

Gideon Kipketer, who finished second at the 2016 Chicago Marathon and 2017 Tokyo Marathon respectively, is the men’s reserve, reports Xinhua news agency.

The women’s team has also had withdrawals with women’s world marathon record holder and London Marathon champion Mary Keitany and Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat turning down the invitation citing conflicting interest with their planned races in September.

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Paris women’s marathon champion Purity Rionoripo will join world marathon silver medallist Helah Kiprop, who had not been named in the initial team and two times world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat in the women’s marathon team.

Athletics Kenya Vice Chairman Paul Mutwii maintained the selected athletes are strong and will weather any challenge from the opposition during the London World Championships in August.

“Kenya has a huge pool to draw from and their unavailability to compete in London does not give the selectors an easy time because equally those who had not been considered have posted some of the fastest time and they are winners in their own right,” said Mutwii.

Rionoripo and Kiprop replace Keitany and Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat. The two absconders is said had bad blood with the selectors after they were overlooked in the selection to the Rio Olympics.

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Keitany missed out on Olympic selection after finishing ninth at the London Marathon last year. Kenya opted to place her in the reserve bench and selected world marathon silver medalist Helah Kiprop, 2016 London Marathon winner Jemima Sumgong, who went on to win gold, but tested positive to banned EPO, and 2016 Paris Marathon champion Visiline Jepkesho. Kiplagat was third in London and was also overlooked.

Their withdrawal has now handed Kenyan marathon couple Paul Lonyangata and Purity Rionoripo, who took Paris Marathon by storm in April, another opportunity for a shot at the world marathon titles.

Rionoripo had been named in the reserve team alongside Agnes Barsosio, who has also been knocked out by an injury. Commonwealth Games champion Philomena Cheyech and Valentine Kipketer, who finished second in 2016 Chicago Marathon are now on women’s reserve bench.

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