NAIROBI, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Nancy Kiprop is keen to make history by becoming the first woman to win three gold medals at the Vienna Marathon.
Kiprop will however come up against strong opposition from Ethiopia's Rahma Tusa, winner of the 2018 Rome Marathon, in the IAAF Gold Label race set for April 7.
Swiss record-holder Maja Neuenschwander returns to the marathon distance after a stress fracture blighted her 2018.
"It will be harder for me this time because the focus is solely on me. People will try to stop me, but I have to focus on my inner strength, my training and my determination. It is a mind game, which I intend to win," Kiprop said on Wednesday in Nairobi.
Austria's Gerhard Hartmann was the first to achieve a hat-trick in Vienna, taking three consecutive victories from 1985 to 1987.
More recently, Kenya's Henry Sugut became a three-time champion with victories in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
While no woman has yet achieved this feat, Kiprop is in a position to do so after winning the last two editions.
In 2017 she won with a personal best time of 2:24:20, finishing just five seconds ahead of fellow Kenyan Rebecca Chesire.
Last year she dominated, beating back the warm conditions and winning by more than five minutes in 2:24:18, another lifetime best. In the meantime, the 39-year-old has gotten even faster, clocking 2:22:46 in Frankfurt last October.
"For me it is an easy decision to return to Vienna, as the race is well organized, people are welcoming and I feel appreciated and respected. I am truly humbled by each experience in Vienna," said Kiprop, a mother of seven who used most of her winnings to found a school in her home village of Chesitek.
Her victories in Vienna have been instrumental with her school project, Kiprop said, helping to make "the impossible possible".
"My school has a total of five classrooms and our plans are to continue to grow. We want to add one new class each year and keep investing in education for the next generation."
Kiprop's strongest rival may well be 25-year-old Ethiopian Rahma Tusa, who achieved a hat-trick of her own when winning the Rome Marathon last year for the third consecutive time. In 2018, she improved her personal best to 2:23:46.
Tusa also showed fine form in the New York City Marathon last November, finishing fifth with 2:27:13. This will be her first appearance in Vienna.
Switzerland's national record holder Neuenschwander took a surprise victory in 2015 in 2:30:09 and then clocked her national record of 2:26:49 in Berlin later that year. However, the 39-year-old hasn't completed a marathon since finishing 29th at the 2016 Olympic Games.