STAWELL - In just over four months time, Australian distance star Craig Mottram will take his position on the start line of the five thousand metres in London to embark on what remarkably will be his fourth Olympic campaign.
However, first he has an important task on his hands - taking on the world-class Kenyans over the traditional two miles this Easter at the 2012 Australia Post Stawell Gift.
Mottram will contest the Thirsty Camel Grampians Backmarkers - 3200m on Easter Monday (April 9).
In what will be his third appearance on the hallowed grass at Central Park, it might just be the case of third time lucky for the 31-year-old.
Starting from scratch last year, the crowd favourite gallantly picked off the majority of frontmarkers to cross the line in third place. He also placed third in the two mile event back in early 2000 when he was just 18 years of age.
Only one athlete has won the two-mile event at Stawell off scratch - two-time winner Malcolm Norward back in 1987.
Once again, Mottram is expected to start from near the back of the field and will have eight laps to chase down the frontmarkers.
"Stawell fits into my program nicely. It's a good opportunity to really stretch the legs and have a hard hit out. Being handicapped, you've got to run hard all the way to the finish," Mottram said.
"Last year was interesting, I had quite a big gap to make up before I could pass anybody. You've just got to put your head down and run as hard as you can for eight laps and pass as many people as you can.
"I think you've got to pick a time and try and run that and if you run a fast time you'll catch most."
Throughout his career, Mottram's most memorable battles have been against the Kenyans, namely Benjamin Limo who claimed gold over 5000m at the 2005 world championships when Mottram took bronze and again in an epic encounter with Augustine Choge at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
"Without doubt the Africans are the strongest distance runners in the world, but it's highly possible to beat them, you've just got to be in your best form," Mottram said.
"You've got to respect and admire them for what they've been able to achieve in terms of their running but you've got to treat them like everyone else and when the gun goes you've got to try your best to win.
"It will be an interesting scenario in Stawell because with the handicap system I'm not sure if I'll be chasing them or they'll be chasing me, that situation will be up to the handicappers."
The 2005 world championships bronze medallist has resurrected his career after a number of frustrating years battling an Achilles tendon injury. A resurgent Mottram had the crowd on their feet at the recent Olympic trials, conquering in the 5000m to book his place on his fourth Olympic team.
"Things are going pretty nicely. My confidence is slowly growing with every performance, my fitness is getting back to where it has been, and now I just need races to sharpen up a bit," Mottram continued.
"The trial was obviously fantastic and it takes the pressure off a little bit, as it allows us to train solely for the Olympics and the campaign.
"I've now been able to build a good base of training which is starting to show in the results. With the training comes the confidence, with the confidence, comes the good results. It's a bit of a snowball effect in that regard, and hopefully we can carry it through for the next few months all the way to London."
Thirsty Camel, who have more than 135 independently owned and operated bottleshops across Victoria, have come on board to sponsor the two mile event in 2012.
"We have Thirty Camel bottleshops spread right throughout the Wimmera region and Victoria as a whole and are proud to throw our support behind the Australia Post Stawell Gift," Leah Menzies, marketing manager of Thirsty Camel said.
"We can't wait to watch Australian star Craig Mottram and the top-class Kenyan distance runners battle it out."
The 131st running of the Australia Post Stawell Gift carnival will be staged over the Easter long weekend from Friday, 6 April to Monday, 9 April 2012.
The carnival kicks off with the Calcutta on Friday night and is followed by three days of thrilling racing, including the Driscoll McIllree and Dickinson Ladies Day and Family Day, all culminating in the 131st running of the Australia Post Stawell Gift on Easter Monday