Two of Ethiopia’s top marathon runners have been forced to withdraw from the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 26 April when they were expected to challenge their Kenyan rivals in the 35th anniversary event.

With less than three weeks to go before the world’s greatest marathon takes over the streets of the British capital, shin and ankle injuries have forced Ayele Abshero and Feyse Tadese out of the elite men’s and women’s races.

Abshero finished fourth in the men’s event 12 months ago and was tipped to be the main threat this year to the talented Kenyans who are expected to dominate the front of the field, including course record holder Wilson Kipsang and world record holder Dennis Kimetto.

The 24-year-old won the lucrative Dubai Marathon on his debut in 2012 and was third in London in 2013. He is the second quickest Ethiopian of all time behind Haile Gebrselassie and was in good shape for another impressive performance this year before suffering a shin injury during his last few weeks of training.

Abshero’s absence leaves 19-year-old Tsegaye Mekonnen as the leading Ethiopian in the men’s field alongside the former Rotterdam marathon champion, Tilahun Regassa. Ethiopian debutant Guye Adola has also pulled out.

Tadese suffered a similarly cruel blow when she succombed to an ankle problem last week.

The 26-year-old was fourth in the women’s race last year, just one place behind her compatriot, Tirunesh Dibaba, and went on to finish second at the Berlin Marathon last September when she lowered her personal best by more than a minute.

The former Paris Marathon champion was due to join compatriots Aselefech Mergia, Tirfi Tsegaye and Tigist Tufa in taking on the formdiable quartet of Kenyans who lead this year’s field, including the last three London champions, Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo and Mary Keitany.

Latest entry lists for all the elite races in the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon are available here