NAIROBI, August 16 – The Kenyan Olympic marathon team has been rocked by the withdrawal of four time Boston marathon champion Robert ‘Mwafrika’ Cheruiyot from this year’s games because of injury.
The 29 year old who had been training intensively said Saturday that he had been forced to pull out of the games after aggravating a thigh injury he first sustained in Italy .
“I first injured my thigh while training in June but I had been told it would clear but instead it came worse and especially when doing my speed work and yesterday (Friday) I made the decision to step to withdraw from thee team because I did not want to travel not fully fit to represent my country.”
Consequently, World marathon champion Luke Kibet who had been selected as a reserve has replaced Cheruiyot in the men’s marathon squad.
Athletics Kenya Public Relations officer Peter Angwenyi confirmed the change. “Luckily, we got Kibet’s visa only yesterday and he will now travel. He is an able replacement going by his past track record and it is a blessing that Kenya is blessed with so much talent,” said Angwenyi.
The 25 year old will join three time London marathon champion Martin Lel and Samuel Wanjiru in the race scheduled for August 24.
The trio was set to leave for Beijing on Saturday afternoon accompanied by Coach David Leting and Assistant Minister for sports Kabando wa Kabando.
A distraught Cheruiyot said he was sad to see his chances of running in Beijing go up in smoke. “I have never trained so hard in my life. I gave it my all but unfortunately it has come to this,” he said adding, “I am so sad because i wanted to show Kenyans that what I can achieve for them.”
He attributed his injury to too much training, "I think I over trained in Italy and my body could not take it anymore,”
He added that he will likely not run again this year. “I am going to have an x-ray taken on the injured leg then just rest until I am completely healed but I don’t think I will run again this year.”
Upon hearing the news, Kibet who was set to travel anyway as a reserve expressed his sympathies to Cheruiyot.
“I am sorry that an injury has prevented Cheruiyot from competing in Beijing because he was really looking forward to it. I have been training for Berlin marathon so am ready and I will do my best to represent my country in Beijing.”
Despite boasting an array of top notch marathoners, Kenya is yet to win an Olympic Gold medal, the best being two silver medals win by Douglas Wakiihuri in 1988 and Eric Wainana in 2000 and many are hopeful that the jinx will end this year.