30 Mar

Lel Steps Into Shoes Of Champion

Sammy Wanjiru

Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru (pictured) has been forced to pull out of next month's London Marathon with a knee injury but race director David Bedford was delighted to hear at the same time that the three-times London Marathon winner and fellow Kenyan Martin Lel was fit and wanted to be added to the London field.

Lel has previously won London in 2005, 2007 and 2008. After dropping out of last year's race, Wanjiru was hoping to make amends on Sunday, April 17 by regaining the title he won in 2009. But he hasn't raced since he won the Chicago Marathon last October and has been forced to accept he's lost the battle to gain fitness in time for the 2011 London race.

Wanjiru said: "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. 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."

While Wanjiru will undoubtedly be missed, Lel provides an able replacement. The 32-year-old is one of only three men who have won the London Marathon three times and after two years of injury problems the Kenyan now believes he's in shape to challenge for a fourth London crown.

Bedford said: "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 However we are 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."

Among Lel's opponents will be the defending champion, Tsegaye Kebede from Ethiopia, the world champion, Abel Kirui, the fastest marathon runner in 2010, Patrick Makau, and the third quickest man of all time, James Kwambai.