To say that Paul Tergat is one of the finest distance runners ever is not really a debatable point. Yet while he has raced to five World Cross Country titles and two World Half Marathon crowns in a brilliant international career that stretches back to 1992, an Olympic or World Championship title on the track has eluded the 35-year-old Kenyan.
Tergat, who currently is a lowly ranked 22nd in the Road Racing category of the IAAF World Rankings, has a last chance for Olympic glory in Athens, when on the closing day of the Games the Marathon returns to its birthplace.
He leads the field as the event's World record holder.
Surprisingly, history is not on his, nor his teammates' - Eric Wainaina and Sammy Korir (NOTE. will not now contest race due to injury) - side, as no Kenyan has ever won an Olympic marathon.
Yet with Wainaina, the Olympic silver medallist, Kenya's attempt at that elusive gold will be a solid one.
Defending champion Gezhagne Abera, who also took the World Championship the following year, is injured - Achilles - and so will not take part.
With twice World championships bronze medallist Stefano Baldini (2:07:29 -PB), Daniele Caimmi (2:08:59 - PB) and Alberico Di Cecco (2:08:54), Italy is well represented as is Japan, with a pair of sub 2:08 runners, Tomoaki Kunichika and Toshinari Suwa in the field.
A trio of strong South Africans --Gert Thys (2:06:33 - PB), Ian Syster (2:07:06 - PB) and Hendrik Ramaala (2:08:58 - PB)-- will attempt to emulate Josia Thugwane's surprise win in Atlanta.
The Spanish trio of Antonio Peña, Julio Rey and José Rios are all sub-2:08 runners as well.
World champion Jaouad Gharib and Abdelkader El Mouaziz, most recently third and seventh in April's Flora London Marathon, form a solid Moroccan contingent.
Please note, that this preview was first published on 13 August and consequently some team entries might have changed.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF