PUNE, India (AFP) – World number one high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar withdrew from the Asian athletics championships, robbing the already depleted event in India of its star attraction.
The 22-year-old was expected to dominate headlines during the five-day meet which opens in Pune on Wednesday after becoming the first high jumper since 2000 to clear 2.40 metres outdoors.
Barshim, who achieved the feat at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting in June, pulled out due to a back injury, according to the Qatar Athletics Federation.
Also missing from the Asian meet, which gives the gold medallists direct entry to the world championships in Moscow in August, is Japanese teenage sprint sensation Yoshihide Kiryu.
Kiryu, 17, clocked a junior world record equalling time of 10.01 seconds in the 100m in April, but the record was not validated because the equipment used for measuring wind speed was not up to international standards.
Kiryu's absence leaves Qatar's Nigeria-born sprinter Samuel Adelebari Francis and defending champion Su Bingtian of China as the favourites to win the 100m event.
Woman triple jumper Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan, who won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, opted out of the meet after giving birth recently.
Some 570 athletes are listed to take part in 42 events -- divided equally between men and women -- over the next five days.
The meet begins two days after Dahlan Jumaan al-Hamad of Qatar took over as president of the Asian Athletics Association.
He defeated his predecessor Suresh Kalmadi of India by two votes in a leadership election.