Kenya has been dealt a blow in her quest to retain the World 1500m title after reigning champion Elijah Manangoi was ruled out of the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, due to injury.
The news hit the country hard yesterday after Manangoi unexpectedly pulled out of the race that will be taking place between September 27 to October 6.
During the 2017 world championships in London, Manangoi stunned three-time champion Asbel Kiprop to claim gold in the men’s 1500m in a time of 3:33.61, in a competition where Kenya finished second overall with five gold medals.
The 26-year-old track star turned to Facebook to announce his pulling out of the global showpiece due to a nagging ankle injury.
He is the defending champion in 1500m and was tipped to deliver gold for the second time in a row this year.
Manangoi’s exit leaves his younger brother George Manangoi without the company of an elder brother and a mentor in Doha.
The exit also leaves three-time IAAF Diamond League series champion Timothy Cheruiyot without a training partner. The duo have been training and competing together in several races.
Cheruiyot played second fiddle to Elijah Manangoi in the 2017 Championships.
Athletics Kenya Nairobi region chairman Barnabas Korir said it might not be possible for the federation to have a replacement for Manangoi, arguing he (Manangoi) was placed in the Doha team on a wild card.
Korir said the pullout will have ramifications for the 1500m team currently training at the Moi sports centre, Karasani.
Younger (George) Manangoi, Ronald Kwemoi and Cheruiyot will now represent Kenya in the global competition.
“Doctors examined him (Elijah Manangoi) and concluded that it was fair for him to stay out of the competition because running in Doha would worsen the injury. For now it is difficult to have a replacement but AK officials are meeting to discuss the way forward,” Korir told Standard Sports.
He added: “I applaud him for pulling out. The team has been reduced to three but we may have a solution. We are still consulting and I will communicate as soon as we find the solution.”
Manangoi, who did not take part in the Friday national trials, in the heartbreaking news said the move to exit will keep him fit as he prepares for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
He wished the remaining compatriots well in the World sface-off.
“Sad that I am not able to defend my 1,500m title in Doha World Championships due to an ankle injury I picked in training. I had no choice. We have to save career for the sake of Olympics Games,” Manangoi’s Facebook post read in part.
“It is not my fault, but God knows the reason why. All my fans in the world continue having faith in me. All the best to my team mates, World silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot and my younger brother World Junior champion George Manangoi and Ronald Kwemoi. Bring it back home guys,” he added.
The announcement elicited reactions on social media, with compatriot and training mate Cheruiyot posting: “It is too sad bro, we will miss you. Get well soon bro…”