Kenya's athletic officials said late Saturday that world marathon champion Luke Kibet who had been selected as a reserve will replace injured Robert Cheruiyot in the men's marathon squad.
The 29-year-old Cheruiyot pulled out of the Beijing Olympic Games on Saturday after aggravating a thigh injury he first sustained in Italy.
Cheruiyot won last year's inaugural world marathon masters, a combination of the world's top marathons.
Three-times London marathon winner Martin Lel and Samuel Wansiru will also run for Kenya in the Olympic marathon on Aug. 24.
"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 Friday I made the decision to step to withdraw from the team, because I did not want to travel not fully fit to represent my country," Cheruiyot said.
Kibet who left the country late Saturday is expected in the Chinese capital Sunday along with world half marathon record holder Samuel Kamau Wanjiru and London Marathon champion Lel who will carry the Kenyan flag in the race on Aug. 24.
Kibet who was set to travel anyway as a reserve expressed his sympathies to Cheruiyot after receiving the sad news from 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."
"Luckily, we got Kibet's visa only on Friday 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," Athletics Kenya spokesman Peter Angwenyi confirmed the change by telephone.
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. "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 overtrained in Italy and my body could not take it anymore," he said.
The debacle came as Kenyan runners are set for action in the women's marathon, the men's 10,000m final and the women's 3,000m steeplechase final that should see history created as the country bags its first Olympic women's gold medal.
Catherine Ndereba is heavily tipped to add the marathon gold medal to her impressive collection that includes two world titles and four victories at the world's oldest 42-kilometer race, the Boston Marathon.
Ndereba, with a personal best time of two hours, 18 minutes and 47 seconds, arrived in Beijing last week from Philadelphia, the US, where she has been going through serious training since being picked in the Kenyan squad.
The soft-spoken runner, who resides in Norristown and works out at Valley Forge National Historic Park, Norristown Farm Park and Ursinus College when she trains in the United States, is participating in her second Olympics, having trained for the past four years with this one race in her sights.
(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2008)