Nairobi — The London Olympic Stadium will be grandest of stages for the most titanic of contests between Kenya's distance running queen Vivian Cheruiyot and dreaded Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba when they clash for the women 10,000m title on Friday.
Cheruiyot, who has taken the fight and succeeded to topple the Ethiopian choke hold in the distance track running since 2009 when she scaled to the women 5000m world title, comes up against the 'Baby Faced Destroyer' who has remained almost invincible to the 'Pocket Rocket'.
"I'm in great shape for the big event. I'm well set and what remains is to compete. It's not an easy task but I will tackle it and I known on Friday night, you will celebrate in Kenya. I know I'm in good shape and together with my colleagues, we will do our best," the double world champion who matched
Tirunesh's feat in Beijing of collecting both 5000m and 10000m titles said before boarding for her flight for London on Monday night.
"I changed my training from 2008 and some things have changed since then. I know this is my year and I want to tell Kenyans to play for us because we will lift our flag high since we are heading to battle," the confident Cheruiyot underlined with the kind of belief that belies her diminutive frame.
Despite weighing only 38kg in competition, Cheruiyot pounds the track with the staunchness of an earth mover with the finishing speed of a turbo-charged sports car to match since timing her run to perfection in the 5000m final in Berlin when she mowed the equally revered Ethiopian Meseret Defar for Kenya's first female distance world title in 12 years.
However, Tirunesh who has bounced back to her best after missing more than a season injured represents a different kettle of fish for Cheruiyot having set the sparkling 30:24.39 world lead over 25-laps that was not a far distance from her 29:54.66 Olympic record set in Beijing.
In their 17 career meetings stretching from the 2001 World Cross in Oostead, Cheruiyot has only ever finished ahead of the 'Baby faced Destroyer' on two occasions, at their first showdown and at the 2004 Fukuoka World Cross where Tirunesh registered the DNF.
Their most recent face-off came at the Aviva London Grand Prix in 2010 where the double Olympics champion forced the Kenyan to accept runner-up in 14:38.17 against 14:36.41 for the winner that was a world lead on August 13.
However, Cheruiyot who has not yet deployed her famed last lap afterburners this season having opted to expend her energy sparingly and is geared up for the contest that could in the end, earn its place in the annals of history as an Olympics track classic.
"At the long run, we are going to compete together. It does not worry me at all, I'm strong myself. It will reach that time, I'm so happy because this time, we are going to race with Dibaba.
"It's been a long time racing with Dibaba and I'm very happy that I want to race with Dibaba so that I can have the morale," Cheruiyot said on the sidelines of her victory in the women 5000m Kenyan Trial on June 23.
Toppling the most feared female distance runner on the planet will surely set her on the path to greatness with the shorter distance yet to come but defeat could see it all unravel for the Laureus Sports Woman of the Year many held she should have bagged the IAAF accolade after a scorching 2011 season.
"I need that gold badly, it's the only medal I do not have in my athletics career, I want it badly and in my heart, I know I will do my best.
"This year, I think it is possible since the training has gone well. When someone decides she wants to double, she must be sure she will go and do something good. You cannot say I'm going you do not know you are fit or not fit," Cheruiyot who like Tirunesh remains unbeaten this season asserted.
The supporting cast of 20 if it all goes to the form book are also in it for a slice of glory in a race expected to be dominated by the deep-rooted rivalry between the East African neighbours.
Daegu silver winner, Sally Kipyego, the scholar turned track star who is based in Oregon, United States and the African Cross Country champion Joyce Chepkirui are with Cheruiyot in the Kenyan corner while Tirunesh can count on the able legs of veteran Worknesh Kidane, a fourth finisher in Athens and rising sensation Belaynesh Oljira, 22.
The Ethiopians go in as slight favourites since their trio lead the 2012 list but Kipyego and Chepkirui, who has continued her meteoric rise since last year, have stated their intent to fashion out a Kenyan podium sweep a la Daegu.
Kipyego, the graduate nurse from Texas Tech University is quietly confident of upsetting the cart by powering past the top seeds for Olympics glory.
"I achieved incredible things last year and this is the same calibre of women going to the Olympics or even better and anything can happen."
"Its athletics and people from out of nowhere can come, who expected Nancy Jebet Langat to win the Olympics? I cannot count somebody out, who expected I would get silver last year?" she stressed before her departure to London on Sunday.
"I'm a dreamer, if you asked me 2 years ago if I was to go to the Olympics two or three years ago to do the double, I would have just smiled and remained optimistic, you never know," she adds on her chances of trumping all comers and entering history books," she added.
"I have run in Africa but now I'm at the Olympics! I prayed and prayed to God to give me this chance and finally I made it. I trained hard for my speed and even if I was targeting the top three, I was not expecting to finish where I did.
"I will work hard and learn from my teammates so that I can win a medal for my country again. I believe as a team, we can win all the medals like they did in Daegu last year," Chepkirui the Africa Cross Country champion who won the senior women 8km title in South Africa in March after winning silver over 1500m at the All Africa Games in Maputo last year said upon booking her London ticket on June 16.
A fourth runner born in Kenya but competing for United States namely Janet Cherobon-Bawcom who has set waves on the distance running circles this season having secured American citizenship last year.
Cherobon-Bawcom left Kenya in August 2000 to run track at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, the same month her future husband Jay left Searcy to spend a year as a volunteer teacher in Eldoret and the couple met when her mother- also a teacher- send her back to the US with a package of tea to deliver to her daughter. Just like Kipyego, Cherobon-Bawcom is also a graduate nurse.
WOMEN 10000m Startlist
Bib Athlete PB SB +
1871 PAVEY Joanne 31:12.30 31:32.22 +
1950 MOCKENHAUPT Sabrina 31:14.21 31:36.76 +
2257 NIIYA Hitomi 31:28.26 31:28.26 +
1710 KIDANE Werknesh 30:07.15 30:50.16 +
2861 GRECHISHNIKOVA Elizaveta 31:07.88 31:07.88 +
2729 MOREIRA Sara 31:23.51 31:23.51 +
1713 OLJIRA Beleynesh 30:26.70 30:26.70 +
2336 KIPYEGO Sally Jepkosgei 30:38.35 32:26.82 +
3323 UHL Lisa 31:18.07 31:35.90 +
3294 HASTINGS Amy 31:19.87 31:19.87 +
2327 CHERUIYOT Vivian Jepkemoi 30:48.98 32:24.52 +
2324 CHEPKIRUI Joyce 31:26.10 32:24.71 +
3191 SKRYPAK Olha 31:51.32 31:51.32 +
2263 YOSHIKAWA Mika 31:28.71 31:28.71 +
1084 Australia WELLINGS Eloise 31:41.31 - +
1706 Ethiopia DIBABA Tirunesh 29:54.66 30:24.39 +
2151 Italy EJJAFINI Nadia 31:45.14 31:45.14 +
2100 Ireland BRITTON Fionnuala 31:29.22 31:29.22 +
1258 Bahrain ESHETE Shitaye 31:21.57 - +
2250 FUKUSHI Kayoko 30:51.81 31:43.25 +
1849 BLEASDALE Julia 31:29.57 31:29.57 +
3277 CHEROBON-BAWCOM Janet 31:33.50 31:33.50