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Reigning champions will defend London Marathon titles

Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede wins the 2010 London Marathon

Kebede wins London Marathon

Reigning champions Tsegaye Kebede and Liliya Shobukhova will defend their London Marathon titles in 2011.

All six medallists from 2010 will be in the field on 17 April, with Ethiopian Kebede's main threat likely to be Kenyan Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru.

In the women's race, 2008 and 2009 champion Irina Mikitenko will be back to challenge Shobukhova.

Mara Yamauchi, the 2009 runner-up, will carry British hopes, along with British champion Liz Yelling.

Yelling, appearing for the first time since 2008, will be joined by her sister-in-law Hayley Yelling, the former European cross-country champion, and Jo Pavey, both making their debuts.

After an encouraging eighth place on debut in 2010, Andrew Lemoncello returns aiming to improve his personal best.

We expect the men's course record to be under threat, while the women's race looks likely to be one of the most competitive we've ever had

Race director David Bedford

Kebede became only the second Ethiopian to win the men's crown in 2010 when he beat Kenya's Emmanuel Mutai and Moroccan Jaouad Gharib into second and third.

However, Wanjiru will be expected to run him close this time round, having beaten Kebede in a thrilling race in Chicago in October to retain his World Marathon Majors crown.

Wanjiru, winner in London in 2009 and runner-up in 2008, was forced to drop out of this year's race with a knee injury.

In 2010 Kebede finished nine seconds outside Wanjiru's course record of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 10 seconds.

But such is the quality of the 2011 field that the fastest personal bests belong to two other Kenyans -Rotterdam and Berlin champion Patrick Makau (fourth fastest in history with 2:04:48) and world champion Abel Kirui, fifth in London this year, who has a best of 2:05:04.

Race director David Bedford said next year's men's field "rivals any of those we've put together in the last few years" and described the women's field as "undoubtedly our strongest ever".

Russia's Liliya Shobukhova

Shobukhova wins women's London marathon

Shobukhova will start as favourite in the women's race having completed a brilliant year in October when she broke the Russian record to win the Chicago marathon and claim the women's World Marathon Majors prize.

Shobukhova took the London crown from Mikitenko in 2010, the German having dropped out after struggling with an injury.

But Mikitenko will return to challenge Shobukhova again along with 2007 champion Zhou Chunxiu, the Chinese woman who recently retained her Asian Games title.

Zhou will be joined by her compatriot, the world champion Bai Xue, while Romania's Olympic champion Constantina Dita returns for her 10th London Marathon.

Edna Kiplagat, the newly-crowned New York champion, leads the Kenyan challenge, supported by Mary Keitany, who was third in New York.

Yamauchi is hoping to make up for her disappointing 10th place this year - after an epic six-day journey to avoid the volcanic ash cloud - and a below-par performance in New York last month when she was 13th.

see also
Yamauchi vows to improve by 2012
10 Nov 10 |  Athletics
Kebede powers to London victory
25 Apr 10 |  Athletics
Shobukhova secures women's title
25 Apr 10 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics

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