Johannesburg - Men's favourite Stephen Mokoka says he will not compete in Sunday's SA 10km Championships in Durban, choosing instead to focus on the international track season.
Mokoka's name had been in the entry lists, but he said on Saturday he no longer planned to take part in the event.
"I want to run on the track, so that's my focus, but I have not confirmed any meetings at this stage," he said.
Mokoka won the national 10km road running title in 2009 and 2010. He finished second in 2011 and was fourth last year.
He made a sterling debut over 42 kilometres at the 2010 Seoul Marathon, finishing fourth in two hours, eight minutes, 33 seconds (2:08:33). In his last race over the classic distance, Mokoka was again fourth, at the Shanghai Marathon in December, when he crossed the line in 2:09:42.
The versatile 28-year-old, a former national 1 500m champion, was 13th in the men's 10 000m final at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and bagged silver and bronze medals at the last two World University Games in the longest race on the track.
Mokoka said he was keeping his options open ahead of the global spectacle in Moscow, Russia, in August.
"I'm hoping to run overseas this season, but I have nothing planned. I'm open to invitations," he said.
In the absence of Mokoka and defending champion Elroy Gelant, the national 10km championships has been blown wide open.
The men's field includes SA marathon champion Benedict Moeng and Lungisa Mdedelwa.
Irvette van Zyl, who won the women's title in Kimberley last season, is also giving this year's edition a miss.
Lebo Phalula, Portia Ngwenya, Christine Kalmer and Zintle Xiniwe, who were all in the top five last year, are back this weekend.
For only the second time the SA 10km Championships will be combined with the SA Masters Championships, which will see some household names of the past competing in five-year categories between 35 and 81 years of age.
Previous Comrades Marathon winners Shaun Meiklejohn (1995) and Piet Vorster (1979) will turn out in the 50 and 60-year categories respectively while multiple Comrades gold medalist Grace de Oliveira is tipped for gold in the women's 50-54 age group.
An innovative course from the hosts, KZN Athletics, and predicted temperatures of 14-16 degrees could well have a positive influence on performances, with fast times expected.
The race will be held over two 5km laps, starting and finishing at Kings Park Athletics Stadium.