Olympic 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto has told Kenyans not to worry about his shape, saying he will be ready to defend his world title at next month's IAAF World Championships in Doha.
Kipruto said that he withdrew from men's 3,000 metres steeplechase final at the African Games in Rabat on Monday night, with 1,000 metres to go, so as to "preserve" his energy and heal well ahead of his world title defence.
Kipruto's failure to finish the race continued to stir debate on whether or not he will be ready to defend his title during the IAAF World Championships in Doha that will run from September 26 to October 6.
Kipruto had only competed in one track race this season in Paris on Sunday where he had staged a return since winning bronze in mixed relay at the World Cross Country Championships in March in Aarhus, Denmark.
Kipruto, who finished fifth in Paris in eight minutes, 13.75 seconds, had just recovered from a leg fracture and back injury.
He flew direct to the Africa Games in Rabat where he failed to claim the only title missing from his collection.
Kipruto has won all the titles save for the African Games.
"I had the urge to win the only title that is not in my cabinet but things didn't go as I expected.
"I didn't want to push hard and aggravate my back problem and further ruin my chances for Doha," said Kipruto.
He added that he is in cognizant of the fact that Kenyans bank on him to preserve the steeplechase tradition.
"That is why I had to withdraw from the race. I want to tell Kenyans not be scared but pray for my full recovery. I still have enough time before Doha and, for sure, I will be in great shape since I know myself better," said the 24-year-old.
Despite Kipruto's withdrawal, his compatriot Benjamin Kigen found the inspiration to push on and ensure that the steeplechase title stayed in Kenya, stunning pre-race favourite and home athlete Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco to gold.
Kigen, who was fresh from winning the national title on Saturday at the Nyayo National Stadium, before finishing second in Paris on Sunday, claimed his maiden major, clocking 8:12.39.
He stunned pre-race favourite and home athlete El Bakkali, who had to swallow humble pie for bronze in 8:19.45.
Ethiopia's Wale Getnet Bayabl took silver in 8:14.06.
Then the 2017 World Cross Country bronze medallist Lilian Kasait would hand Kenya its second gold medal with an emphatic to win women's 5,000m final.
Kasait, the 2014 World Under-20 Championships 3,000m silver medallist, romped home in 15:33.63, beating the Ethiopian duo of Hawi Feysa Gejia and Alemitu Tariku in 15:33.99 and 15:37.15 respectively.
Kenya finished the day 10th overall with seven medals overall -- two gold, two silver and three bronze.
In the other events, national triple jump champion and record holder Gloria Mulei finished fifth in women's triple jump after leaping 13m, shying away from her national record by 0.05 metres.
Nigerian Grace Chinonyelum jumped 13.75m to win the Africa title beating home jumper Jamaa Chnaik, who settled for silver in 13.69m, with South African Zinzi Chabangu managing 13.59 for bronze.
Earlier, national 100m record holder Maximilla Imali cruised to women's final.
Imali stormed the final despite finishing second in the semi-finals in 11.71, losing the battle to African Games 100m and 200m defending champion, Marie Josee Ta Lou from Cote D'Ivoire, who won the race in 11.36.
Another favourite, the 2011 Maputo African Games 100m champion Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, was disqualified from the heat for a false start. Gina Bass won the second semi in 11.36.