Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele has withdrawn from Sunday's London Marathon with a calf injury, robbing an athletics-starved audience of a showdown with Kenyan world record holder Eliud Kipchoge.
"I am very disappointed that I cannot race on Sunday," said Bekele.
"I was in good shape but then I picked up a niggle in my left calf after two fast training sessions close together in the last weeks of preparation."
Sunday's marathon around the British capital has been touted as one of the most eagerly anticipated running events of the coronavirus-hit year.
Deprived of the Olympic Games and a host of other top track meets, the 42.2km (26-mile) circuit around London had been set up as a battle royal between two running legends, Britain's multi-medalled Mo Farah was even brought in to act as a pacemaker.
Bekele, who set a personal best of 2hr 01min 41sec in the Berlin Marathon last year, would have pitched himself against Kipchoge, who holds the world record of 2:01:39 -- just two seconds faster than the Ethiopian.
"It has been a tough preparation time, with lockdown, when I couldn't have my 'NN' team around me," said Bekele, referring to his management team.
The 38-year-old Ethiopian, who has won a staggering 26 gold medals on the world, Olympic and continental stages, said he had been undergoing daily treatment on his calf.
"I truly believed I would be ready, but today it is worse and I now know I cannot race on it," he said.
"This race was so important to me. My time in Berlin last year gave me great confidence and motivation and I was looking forward to show that again, I have worked so hard for it.
"I realise many people around the world have been looking forward to this race and I am sorry to disappoint my fans, the organisers and my fellow competitors."