If anyone still doubts that Paul Tergat is the greatest cross-country runner of all time, the Kenyan intends to offer conclusive proof in the Algarve tomorrow by securing an unprecedented sixth world title.
The 30-year-old airforce sergeant has already matched the total of wins amassed by his loping compatriot John Ngugi, and has done so in consecutive years. Thus he will take to the carefully cultivated course in this Portuguese resort with history in his sights. "I can never say I am going to win this title again," he said. "All I can say is that I am going to try."
While preparing at their training camp in Embu, Kenya's team have been sharpening up for this weekend's task by chasing the local school bus. Two of Tergat's team-mates - the 21-year-old Charles Kamathi, who has twice beaten him on the cross this season, and Patric Ivuti, silver medallist in Belfast last year - look capable of making him work hard for his latest gold. But every indication is that this tall, elegant runner will succeed once again.
Britain's prime contender here, Paula Radcliffe, would settle for making her own piece of history by winning the event where she has finished so frustratingly short of the gold medal position for the past three years. The presence of Ethiopia's defending champion, Gete Wami, and the return of another Ethiopian former winner, Derartu Tulu, means Radcliffe will need to be better than ever before to achieve her ambition. She believes she is.
Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan, who won both the 8km and 4km titles in Marrakesh two years ago, is also back to contest her first major competition since giving birth to her daughter, Ciara, last July. However, O'Sullivan's run-in to this event has been less than smooth - she arrived here on Thursday holding the baby, literally, after her Australian husband, Nick Bideau, had been held back at Heathrow because of visa problems.
While Kenya seem certain to collect their 15th successive team title in the senior men's event, there are hopes elsewhere that the medals will be spread around. Notably in the women's 4km, where Britain's team - which will include Radcliffe, Hayley Tullett and Helen Pattinson - are seeking to emulate the exploits of last year's victorious French quartet.Reuse content