Kenyans start favourites in the marathon this afternoon. Even as the late arrival controversy continued to dog the Kenya women's marathon team, they start favourites as the World athletics Championships get underway today.
Valentine Jepkorir may still be trying to shake off her jet lag after her late arrival but the Kenyan technical team is exuding confidence that they are still contenders for the gold.
Edna Kiplagat is the defending champion and together with Lucy Kabuu and Jepkorir, they form a formidable Kenya women's marathon squad.
Coach Sammy Rono is, however, wary of the Russians who will be running on home soil and before their own fans.
"We can't take them for granted as they will be racing on home soil before their own fans. But we have won most of our marathons away from Kenya and so our psyche is up too.," he said.
Russia will field Tatyana Aryasova who has a personal best of 2:26.13 and a season best of 2:32.24. Others are Alevetina Biktimirova (2:25.12 PB) and Albina Mayorova (2:23.50 PB).
Rono said save for Jepkorir Kipketer who had travel complications, the other two are focused and raring to go. "I also know, despite what happened, Jepkorir will not be pushed around. She is a fighter per excellence," the coach said.
The Kenya girls have good times and Rono says all they need to do is be focused. In his opinion Kabuu is the most likely to pull a surprise having clocked 2:19.34 in even hotter conditions in Dubai.
Jepkorir has a personal best time of 2:24.33 and with Kabuu, they will go all out to stamp their authority having launched their 42km debut not so long ago.
However, all eyes will be on Kiplagat (Edna), who is not only the defending champion but the most experienced. Edna has a personal best of 2:19.50 and a season's best of 2:2132.
Yesterday, the women marathoners adopted a "wait and see" stance-arguing marathons are always unpredictable because all depends on a number of factors including weather and the route.
"All we know is that we are ok ... and we will give the event our best shot," said Kabuu. Rono said the difference between the championships and city marathons is that you never know what your opponent is up to.
"In city marathons- it is always made clear who is pace setting. Here, you can easily fall prey to tricks from runners. The risk here is that you can't allow anyone to open a gap ahead of you because she or he could go on to win the race," he noted. The coach said for one to prevail, they have to keep theirr minds working and at the same time observe opponents closely.
And while the Kenyans will be watching the Russians, the Ethiopians will be all out for revenge after failing in Daegu, South Korea in 2010.
Ethiopia have lined up Olympic champion Tiki Gelana, Meseret Hailu, Meselech Melkamu and Aberu Kabede to do the job. Gelana was superb last year setting a personal best of 2:18.58 in Rotterdam Marathon and posted an Olympic record of 2:23.07 in London where she won the title. If Gelana's Olympic Games form is anything to go by, then she will start the race as one of the favourites and like Kiplagat, she will be watched very closely. Melkamu is equally no pushover with a personal best time of 2:21.01.