Big names bow out of athletics meet in Helsinki

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Injuries are taking a heavy toll on the athletics world championships.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:54 IST
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Injuries are taking a heavy toll on the athletics world championships. The list of no-shows grew when Olympic hammer throw champion Koji Murofushi of Japan withdrew because of a lingering rib injury and three-time Olympic javelin champion Jan Zelezny pulled out because of an Achilles tendon injury. Thirty-nine-year-old Zelezny, the reigning world-record holder, would have been seeking his fourth world's title after winning in 1993, 1995 and 2001. Other big names who have bowed out of the championships starting on Saturday include 100-metre world-record holder Asafa Powell, Hicham El Guerrouj, Kelly Holmes, Jana Pittman and Christian Olsson. "It is regrettable that Powell will not be here and that others are injured, but we have to take it in stride," IAAF president Lamine Diack said. "It will have no impact. There are always injuries, but this is the world championships." World's fastest man Powell, a 22-year-old Jamaican, became the world's fastest man when he lowered the 100 record to 9.77 seconds in June. He pulled out of the 100 at the worlds over the weekend because of a groin injury, but may still compete in the relay. "He's devastated," his agent Paul Doyle said. Powell had run the three fastest times of the season. His withdrawal makes American sprinter Justin Gatlin a heavy favourite to add the world title to his Olympic gold medal from Athens last year. Pittman won't defend her 400 hurdles title because of a bad back. It's the second time in as many years that injury has ruined the Australian's season. She underwent knee surgery just weeks before last year's Athens Olympics. Farewell season El-Guerrouj won the 1,500 and the 5,000 metres in Athens, but tonsillitis forced the Moroccan to withdraw from the worlds last week. He has a farewell season planned for 2006. Holmes, the British 800 and 1,500 champion from Athens, is out with an Achilles tendon problem. In the triple jump, Olympic champion Olsson didn't have enough time to prepare for the defence of his title after he was slowed by two foot operations. Also, Olympic champion Shawn Crawford withdrew from the 200 because of a lingering foot injury. The worlds are also missing Marion Jones, a five-time Olympic medallist in 2000 who pulled out with a hip injury at the US trials after being dogged by doping allegations all season. Her boyfriend, former 100-metre record-holder Tim Montgomery, also pulled out at the trials. (AP)

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