By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- World silver medallist Helah Kiprop of Kenya has warned her rivals to expect a bruising battle in her defence of the Tokyo marathon on Sunday.
Kiprop, who won gold in her debut in Japan, is tagging along her husband to inspire her win and build her prospects of making the Kenya team to the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
While that quest can wait for a year, her focus is to retain the title she won last year.
"I have cleared my training without any problems. I have pushed my body to the limit and hopefully, it will repay me with victory in Tokyo. That is why I'm heading to Tokyo with my husband. Please support me," she said on Wednesday in Nairobi.
Joining Kiprop on the mission will be another Kenyan star and Paris Marathon champion Purity Rionoripo.
The duo however, are uncertain of what to expect from track star and two-time Olympic 5,000m champion Ethiopia's Meseret Defar, who will be making her debut in the marathon distance after staying out of competition for almost two years.
Defar is a winner of two Olympic 5,000m titles, two world 5,000m titles and four world indoor 3,000m titles and the 34-year-old has spent the past few years - when not injured or pregnant - making a gradual transition to the roads.
She has won three half marathons on U.S. soil and finished second at the 2013 Great North Run in 1:06:09.
With track personal best times of 8:23.72 for 3,000m, 14:12.88 for 5,000m and 29:59:20 for 10,000m, athletics fans will be keen to see what Defar manages on her marathon debut.
She will line up against compatriot Ruti Aga, who finished second at the 2017 Berlin Marathon in bets time of 2:20:41 and won the recent Houston Half Marathon in 1:06:39.
There is also fellow Ethiopian Shure Demise, whose 2:20:59 performance at the 2015 Dubai Marathon is the fastest performance ever by an Under-20 athlete.