By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- An ankle injury has forced Berlin Half Marathon champion Eric Kiptanui to withdraw from Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday.
The women's favorite Kenya's Caroline Kipkirui has also been forced to pull out citing a foot injury.
Kiptanui, who is the fastest half marathoner in the world this year, recently sustained a slight injury in training and is not back to full fitness.
"It's a blow to my preparations because I had hoped to continue my big performance," said Kiptanui on Friday. "I have to bite my time and wait for it to fully heal."
It is the second race for the Kenyan to skip after he was no show at the Copenhagen Half Marathon last month.
However, Kenya will still have a strong representation in India's premier road race, which has a winner's prize set at 27,000 U.S. dollars with a total prize money purse standing at 280,000 dollars.
Kenya will have its hopes on world half marathon record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei, who will take the fight to Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia.
The two women will go head to head for the course record, which has been standing since 2009 and it belongs to Kenya's Mary Keitany at 1:06.54.
Jepkosgei and Dibaba have met twice before.
Firstly, at last year's Ras al Khaimah Half Marathon in United Arab Emirates where Jepkosgei finished third and the Ethiopian legend was fifth.
The second time the two clashed was in May at the Manchester 10km in Britain when Dibaba got the upper hand with a convincing win - 31:08 to 31:57 - with the Kenyan runner in second place.
"The Delhi Half Marathon is my first-ever trip to India and so I am very much looking forward to visiting and also competing against, once again, Tirunesh Dibaba as well as the rest of the field of accomplished and confident women," said Jepkosgei.
Jepkosgei set a world half marathon best of 1:04:52 in Prague in April, 2017 and improved it by one second to 1:04:51 in Valencia.
In Delhi, Jepkosgei and Dibaba, third in Berlin marathon, will face opposition from Ethiopians Ababel Yeshaneh (65:46), Worknesh Degefa (66:14) Zeinaba Yimer (66:21) and Senbere Teferi (debut).
"My training has gone on well. There is nothing much I have changed during my training and I'm looking forward to the race where I want to lower the record, even by a second," said Jepkosgei.
The men's field will have Kenyans Alex Korio (58:51) and Daniel Kipchumba (59:06), Ethiopians Leul Gebresilase (59:18) and Feyisa Lilesa (59:22), New Zealand's Zane Robertson 59:47 and last year's runner-up Andamlak Belihu from Ethiopia (59:51) and last year's third-placer Leonard Korir from the United States (59:52).
Olympic 5,000m bronze medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet is sick and will not compete in India. Enditem