(L-R) Viola Jelagat Kibiwot of Kenya, Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia look on after the Women's 5000m round 1 heats on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 7 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
After a few mixed years in which she struggled with injury on and off, Dibaba has this year regained her top form and proved it by successfully defending her Olympic 10,000m title last weekend. It brought her tally of Olympic gold medals to three, combining with the two she won in Beijing four years ago when taking the distance double.
She currently boasts the same number of individual Olympic golds as Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Tamara Press, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Betty Cuthbert, Tatyana Kazankina and Marie-Jose Perec. One more title would see Dibaba move ahead of such esteemed company.
But it's not as though her task will be easy. She will be up against the other two medallists from the 10,000m – Kenyan pair Sally Kipyego and Vivian Cheruiyot – and will also face team-mate Meseret Defar, the 2004 Olympic champion over this distance who is coming into the event fresh, having decided against going for a double.
The other track final of the night is the women's 1500m and if the semi-finals are anything to go by, it's set to be an extremely competitive race. So fierce were the first two rounds, the top four from last year's World Championships all failed to make the final.
Instead the top contenders look to be Ethiopian record-holder Abeba Aregawi and European champion Asli Cakir – both of whom have dipped well inside four minutes for the event this year. But Russia will also be strong, represented by Tatyana Tomashova and Yekaterina Kostetskaya, while the likes of Morgan Uceny and Lisa Dobriskey will be dangerous over the final 200 metres.
Lavillenie hoping for no more surprises
When the last Olympics were held in 2008, Renaud Lavillenie did not even qualify for the French team in the Pole Vault. But since then his career has taken off and he has established himself as one of the world's top vaulters.
He has won four European titles – two outdoors, two indoors – as well as two World Indoor golds, but a global outdoor title is one that has so far eluded him. He was one of the gold-medal favourites at both the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, but both times was surprised by his rivals and wound up with bronze.
With the two men who upstaged him in Daegu last year – Pawel Wojciechowski and Lazaro Borges – failing to make the final, Lavillenie's job has been made slightly easier. But this is still an Olympic final and anything can happen.
Could, for example, defending champion Steve Hooker overcome his recent psychological demons and take another gold? US champion Brad Walker or leading Germany Bjorn Otto are even more experienced and will be keen to perform well in what could be their last Olympic appearance. Or perhaps the surprise package could come from Britain's Steve Lewis, who defeated all of the top contenders in his last competition before the Olympics.
The other field event final of tomorrow night is the women's Hammer. With the four top throwers of all time having advanced from the qualifying, the final could prove to be the greatest ever – perhaps even exceeding the 2009 World Championships final in terms of quality, where the world record was broken and 11 women broke 70 metres.
Anita Wlodarczyk was the winner on that occasion, and she led yesterday's qualifying round with a throw of 75.68m – just 66cm shy of the Olympic record. But there's a strong chance that the World record, and not just the Olympic record, will be broken tomorrow.
Defending champion Oksana Menkova has thrown 78.69m this year to go to No.2 on the world all-time list, while World champion Tatyana Lysenko is at No.3 on the list with her 78.51m PB from this year. Not forgetting, of course, that the World record holder herself, Betty Heidler, will be taking part in the final too.
USA 4x400m reign vulnerable?
Boycotts, withdrawals and retroactive disqualifications aside, the USA has won every Olympic 4x400m title since 1952 when they were beaten by Jamaica. In recent years, a gold medal by the USA in the men's 4x400m has been one of the biggest certainties at major championships. But could that end in London?
In the heats today they were upstaged by the Bahamas as the tiny Caribbean nation had a big lead at half way and finished level with the USA as both teams crossed the line in 2:58.87. First-leg runner Manteo Mitchell will not be in the final after discovering that he had broken his fibula in the heats, while former Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. It means they may
The top two from the other heat – Trinidad & Tobago and Great Britain – also look capable of going faster in the final and it's sure to be an exciting end to the eighth day of action.
While USA's 4x400m crown looks to be under threat tomorrow, their 4x100m women appear in much better form. In the semi-finals they came within 0.04 of the Olympic record with a world-leading 41.64 – and they are yet to bring in World 100m champion Carmelita Jeter and Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix.
They will once again renew their rivalry with Jamaica, who will need to ensure their baton exchanges are better than they were in the semi-finals if they want to challenge for a medal. After a national record in the semi-finals, Trinidad & Tobago could sneak a medal, while Ukraine also showed that they will field a formidable quartet.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
- (L-R) Viola Jelagat Kibiwot of Kenya, Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia look on after the Women's 5000m round 1 heats on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 7 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland competes in the Women's Hammer Throw Qualifications on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright