Edith Masai, the only individual gold medallist for Kenya in Brussels (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Masai’s injury not improving - title defence unlikely

Nairobi, KenyaThreetime World Cross Country Championship women’s short race champion Edith Masai who was part of the provisional Kenyan squad for 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships, St-Etienne/St-Galmier, France (19/20 March 2005), yesterday confirmed that a leg injury is likely to prevent her from defending her title.

"This leg is still bad and it looks highly unlikely that I will travel to France to defend my title, let alone run on Saturday (in the regional cross country championships)," said Masai, 37.

Masai, had skipped the national championship trials on 12 February, with her manager citing a twisted right ankle in a training session the previous day as the reason for the withdrawal.

The only individual Kenyan gold medallist at last year's World's in Brussels, Masai was named in Kenya’s provisional team following the trials and given the chance to run at this Saturday's regional cross country meeting in Nairobi to assess her fitness to compete in France next month.

Masai had also given every indication that she would be fit for the World Cross Country vowing to win up to six World titles to surpass Paul Tergat's and John Ngugi's five each.

“One can't force something to happen the way one wants. This leg is not improving and I can't risk running like this. It may improve but at this rate I highly doubt it,” said Masai.

The news was met with surprise in national athletics circles.

“She has been one of our best athletes. We shall dearly miss her because she was the defending champion in the 4km category,” Athletics Kenya Secretary General David Okeyo said in a statement. “All that we want to see is the doctor's certificate exempting her from running. We shall also ask our doctor to further examine her for the purposes of affording her better treatment so that she can heal well for forthcoming competitions.”

Omulo Okoth (The Standard) for IAAF