By Symone Goss, World-Track

COTTBUS — Germany’s top marathon runner Irina Mikitenko has pulled out of the upcoming World Championships race because of her father’s recent death.

The 36-year-old London marathon champion is the leading runner this year was billed as a strong candidate to strike gold in the August 23 race.

But at a meet in Cottbus on Saturday, German athletics federation sporting director Juergen Mallow said Mikitenko hasn’t been able to focus on her preparation since her father died two weeks ago.

"Irina Mikitenko’s withdrawal is a blow for our team," Mallow told reporters."Irina did not manage to hit world championship form in the St Moritz altitude training camp.

"We are very, very sad about this," said Mallow.

Berlin will be the second successive major championships she will miss, after she was forced to sit out the Beijing Olympic Games last summer because of an injury.

The German has won the last two London marathons and has the fastest time this year of 2 hours, 22.11 minutes.

The world championships begin next week in Berlin.

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