TWO'S COMPANY: Vivian Cheruiyot (right) and Linet Masai
WORLD CHAMPIONS Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai have thrown their hats into the ring, in what should be an explosive confrontation against Meseret Defar at the Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry in the New Year.
The Kenyan pair will go head-to-head with their arch Ethiopian rival - the 2012 Olympic Games 5,000m gold medallist - in the women's invitational 3,000m race at the IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Holyrood Park on January 5.
Rivalry between the two African nations is legendary, and over a testing course, is almost certain to be a highlight at the event which also features a high profile International match between Great Britain, Team Europe and the United States.
Cheruiyot and Defar have crossed swords many times in thrilling races but there was heartbreak for the former when in a sprint for the line she was pushed into silver medal position when it mattered most in last summer's Olympic 5,000m final.
"Vivian having won both the World Championships 5,000m and 10,000m title the previous year was naturally upset at missing out on another great prize," said Andy Caine, the Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry elite athlete manager.
"Having first had to settle for third in the 10,000m and then a week later runner up over the shorter distance was a great disappointment for her. But she's a fighter.
"You can rest assured that with new ambitions on the horizion and possibly the defence of the world cross country title next March in Poland she will bounce back and once again prove herself world number one."
Masai at 23 is six years younger than Cheruiyot and Defar but already has a world class reputation having won the 2009 IAAF World Championships 10,000m crown and on the last three occasions placing second at the World Cross Country Championships.
"Linet also has a close affinity with Edinburgh," revealed Caine. "In 2008 she was third when Holyrood Park hosted the World Cross and of course in 2011 she was winner of the Great Edinburgh XCountry when pushing Cheruiyot into third place.
"The distance of three kilometres may be a little short for her but she's a determined athlete and her results over the year, particularly on the cross country circuit, confirm this.
Caine added: "Edinburgh's going to be a very interesting race. Cheruiyot and Masai are far more experienced cross country runners than Defar who normally concentrates on racing indoors during the winter.
"But Ethiopian women have had massive success at previous meetings and she will be determined to continue that success.