NAIROBI, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Paris marathon champion Paul Lonyangata of Kenya says he is keen to secure a third consecutive title in the French capital on April 14.
Injury and loss of form have limited the 25-year-old participation since he clinched his second Paris title exactly a year ago.
The Kenyan was set to debut at the Chicago marathon in October but was forced to withdraw after he picked up a knee injury in training. He has since shaken it off.
"I had to listen to my body and bite my time. The injury has cost me a full year and I have returned to training and am ready for the challenge in Paris. I started training in January and hopefully, I will be third time lucky to lift the title on return to Paris," said Lonyangata on Wednesday from Eldoret.
Lonyangata became the first man to win back-to-back Paris marathon titles since Steve Brace of Britain in 1989 and 1990.
He won the Paris title in two hours, six minutes and 25 seconds and failed in attaining his second target that was to improve his personal best, which he had set in 2017 when he finished in 2:06:10.
"It was a wonderful experience to win in Paris. But that is in the past. I want to look forward and excel because I want to represent the country in Olympics and the World Championships," he added.
On his return to the French capital Lonyangata must be alive to the challenge that Ethiopians Asefa Mengistu and Gelete Burka will pose as the fastest entrants.
Mengistu, who was fourth in Dubai last year in his best time of 2:04:06 and third on his return there this year, heads eight athletes who have faster time than two hours and eight minutes.
Lonyangata set his best time of 2:06:10 in the race in 2017. Former Rotterdam and Fukuoka marathons winner Yemane Tsegay has clocked 2:04:48. Feyisa Lelisa, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, is next quickest with 2:04:52.
Abdellatif Meftah is quickest of the domestic entries with 2:09:46. Burka is one of six sub-2:25:00 entrants, leading the way with her 2:20:45 from Dubai last year.
In the women's race, champion Betsy Saina will camp elsewhere having signed up for the Boston marathon, which will be held a day later in the United States.
In the absence of the Kenyan champion, compatriot Sally Chepyego (2:23:15) will head the Kenyan challenge, while Azmera Gebru (2:23:31) and Tinbit Gidey (2:23:37) will also hope to feature.
However, it is Ethiopia's Azmera Abreha (2:21:51), who was second in Shanghai marathon last year, is next fastest. European marathon silver medalist Clemence Calvin (2:26:28) is only the French woman on the elite list.