Vivian Cheruiyot holds off Defar in the 5000m in Rome (Giancarlo Colombo) © Copyright
Cheruiyot, who has been a thorn in the flesh of her mainly Ethiopian rivals for the last two years, experienced at the Compeed Golden Gala - Samsung Diamond League meeting in Rome’s Olympic stadium on Thursday (31 May) how tough a task it is going to be to maintain her superiority.
The 28-year-old Kenyan showed with her fizzling double in Daegu last summer she fears no one and last night she emphasised the importance of concentration when maintaining her momentum after Meseret Defar ran her to a very tight 0.03sec victory.
Indeed Defar, also 28, the 2004 Olympic 5000 champion after a couple of unsettled years, showed she is approaching the rampant form that won her that title in Athens then the World Championships crown three years later in Osaka.
Cheruiyot, 14th at 5000m in Sydney 2000, was not on the Kenyan Olympic team in 2004 when Defar picked up the Olympic gold but by the time they met in Osaka 2007, she was beginning to emerge strongly, taking the silver behind the Ethiopian, and then in Berlin 2009 took the World title herself, with her rival settling for bronze.
And Defar is not the only potential challenger from Ethiopia that Cheruiyot faces in London with reigning Olympic 5000m and 10,000 champion Tirunesh Dibaba, herself a two-time (2003 / 2005) 5000m and two-time (2005 / 2007) 10,000m World champion, on the comeback trail.
That means Cheruiyot who married her long-time partner Moses Kiplagat Kirui on 14 April, is for the present time putting off having a baby which she says is in her calendar for possibly next year.
Next on her competition plate she has to compete at the Kenyan Olympic 10,000m trial in Nairobi on 16 June and the following weekend bid for a place in the 5000.
Cheruiyot is upbeat on what she can achieve and positively believes that her London selection will be aided by her victories in Doha over 3000 and in Rome last night.
"The race was not bad, the last 200 are getting more and more important," said Cheruiyot in Rome.
"Everybody is going for the last 200," and showing great respect to the runner up, acknowledged, "I think that Meseret Defar is coming back and she is a top lady. Two weeks ago in Doha we were running together but today she came much closer."
Cheruiyot who is also the reigning World Cross Country champion, insisted: "But this race (Rome) is not too important - the Olympic final will be important.
"I am not in top shape at the moment because in Doha I injured myself. After Doha I had problems with my left ankle. So until the Kenyan trials I will not run any meetings. Afterwards I will have only one before the Olympics."
"By the Olympic Games I will be alright and back in shape. Yes, the aim is for the Olympics at 5000m and 10000m but I have to do our trials first. This is my last race before the trials, afterwards I have one meet before the Olympics."
Cheruiyot recalling her stellar campaign and how she sees 2012 in relation to it, said: ""I don't have any pressure but last year I was thinking I would be Athlete of the Year but it passed away and I was disappointed."
"This a new year and everything is new and I hope I do my best again this year. The 5000 is a very sharp event and tonight I wanted to run my season's best which I did."
The diminuitive distance star, added of her relationships with Ethiopian athletes, smilingly added: "I know they are really angry because of last year and they are not going to give up trying to beat Kenyan athletes."
Cheruyot who restricted her 2012 cross country campaign, revealed: "I did not come to Europe where it is very cold because I have a chest problem and so only did one race."
The Commonwealth champion, looking to her future, admitted: "The marathon? I may do a marathon next year, although I may have a baby. We'll see."
Questioned on what her reaction would be if losing to Defar or anyone else in the Olympic build up, she vowed: "It would be make be a train a little bit harder but I hope something like that doesn't happen."
Dave Martin for the IAAF