The London Marathon suffered its second high-profile withdrawal yesterday as Paul Tergat, the world record holder, announced his withdrawal from Sunday's race because of injury. First Paula - now Paul.
The 36-year-old Kenyan is normally a quietly spoken man, but his voice died away almost to a whisper as he described his frustration at being forced out of what he has described as "the race of the century" with a torn calf muscle.
Tergat, who finished fourth in last month's Lisbon Half Marathon in 59min 42sec, said: "I was due to fly to London last Wednesday and this problem only came on Monday. I went to bed and the next day I woke up with a lot of pain. I tried to train but I could not walk afterwards. I decided to fly to Italy to see if I could get some treatment. I had ultrasound, but it was no use.
"This is the most frustrated I have been in my career. I had focused so much on this race. It is very rare to find the quality of athletes you find here. But when you are a sportsman, injury comes. I have to rest now."
The deal has already been done to bring Tergat back next year to the event in which he finished second five years ago after a track career that had brought him world records, world cross-country titles and several silver medals behind the man who now stands clear favourite to win on Sunday, Haile Gebrselassie.
Tergat was happy to tip Gebrselassie for a title the Ethiopian has also been seeking for several years since he finished third in London four years ago in what was his own marathon debut. The bookies, too, favour the Ethiopian, whose odds are 2-1.
Gebrselassie himself was full of sympathy for his perennial rival yesterday, reassuring him that he would be back to challenge strongly in 2007 and adding that he had also had to miss the London event through injury in the past.
Tergat's withdrawal has prevented the world of athletics from witnessing an extension of one of the great athletics rivalries of modern times.
Tergat won four global silver medals at 10,000m behind Gebrselassie, and beat the Ethiopian's world record, only to see his rival regain it.Reuse content