Kitata will ignore injury to defend London Marathon title

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Ethiopia's Shura Kitata (L) in the elite men's London Marathon race (AFP/Richard Heathcote)
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Ethiopia's Shura Kitata insists he will not let a nagging hamstring injury ruin his London Marathon title defence on Sunday.

Kitata won the elite men's race last October to end Eliud Kipchoge's two-year reign as London Marathon champion.

The 25-year-old could not follow his first title in the English capital with victory at the recent Tokyo Olympics, pulling out in hot and humid conditions in Sapporo.

He has arrived in London bothered by the hamstring problem, but believes he can fight through the pain to win the race.

"I have some slight problems but still I am preparing to win and looking forward to it," Kitata told reporters on Wednesday.

"I was prepared very well before the Olympics and just two weeks before I had a hamstring injury, that was a big pressure for me. Otherwise I have prepared well and I am feeling confident to run on Sunday.

"The hamstring and the pain is not really easy and when it is a very fast speed, there might be some problem but I am looking forward to doing what I did before."

Another sprint finish this year would raise doubts over Kitata's ability to win the event again, even though Kipchoge will not be in London as he recovers following his Olympic exploit in Japan.

Instead, it is Kipchoge's fellow Kenyan Evans Chebet who could emerge as a title contender.

He will run the 26.2-mile course for the first time and hope to continue a long-standing rivalry with Ethiopian runners -- only athletes from the two countries have won the London Marathon since 2003.

Kipchoge's last win in London in 2019 saw the Kenyan break the course record to post a time of 2:02:37.

Birhanu Legese will be the fastest man in the field this time following his winning run of 2:02:48 at the 2019 Berlin Marathon.

"The rivalry is there and I know the Ethiopians are used to staying behind a bit and kicking on for the last 200 or 300 metres. It will be a challenging race and I know I will need a lot of strength at the end to win," Chebet said.

"If Eliud is watching on Sunday, it will give me more to run faster but I have my times already and the goal is just to go for a personal best.

"For 2:02 or 2:03 maybe depending on condition but I am looking forward to the race. Eliud gives morale but I have my own interest and motivation to win."

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