By Alison Wildey

LONDON, April 21 (Reuters) – Olympic champion and pre-race favorite Tiki Gelana’s hopes of taking the London Marathon title on her debut came to an inglorious end after a collision with a wheelchair athlete on Sunday.

Gelana, who on paper was the fastest woman in the field, cut across the wheelchair competitors and hit Canadian Josh Cassidy as she attempted to reach a drinks station after 15 km of the 42.195-km race.

The Ethiopian, who also suffered a fall on her way to victory at London 2012, picked herself up and continued on her way but by 25km had been dropped by the leading runners and eventually finished down in 16th, 16 minutes and 40 seconds behind winner Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya.

Cassidy could be seen hammering his fists down on to the drinks table in frustration after the crash.

“It’s something I have mentioned before. I don’t know who’s responsible, but every year we come to overtake the women, there’s 10 chairs going at 20mph and the poor women are scrambling to find their feet,” Cassidy, who holds the world best time in a wheelchair of 1:18.25, told the BBC.

“I have a brand new $2,000 pair of wheels that are damaged, who’s going to pay for them? Things have to change.

“The safest thing would be to have the chairs start first because one of these years a woman is going to have a leg broken, a career ruined.

“It’s just not worth having this program if the races are going to suffer.”