Johannesburg - Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi believes he has the beating of Russian Leonid Shvetsov at this year's Comrades Marathon.
Muzhingi, aiming for his fourth straight win at the annual ultra-marathon in KwaZulu-Natal in June, lay down a challenge to Shvetsov, the holder of the 'up' and 'down' records, on Tuesday.
"There is no pressure at all," Muzhingi said.
"If anything, after resting for two years, it is Mr Shvetsov who is under pressure.
"I am feeling good, I am prepared and I am focused on my victory."
The Nedbank Running Club (NRC) announced that Shvetsov would make a return to the race this year after announcing his retirement in 2009, after Muzhingi had prevented him from bagging his third successive victory.
Muzhingi's coach, Cliff Chinsamy of Bluff Meats Formula One Running Club, did not expect a titanic struggle between his charge and the Russian, who have shared the last five Comrades titles, but expected challenges from southern African runners.
"Stephen is well into his training regimen," Chinsamy said.
"He is focussed, both mentally and physically, and he will be well prepared for a mighty good run.
"I don't think that Shvetsov will be any major challenge for my runner, but I must admit that we are anticipating some major contenders from southern Africa, both on home ground and surroundings, like Lesotho."
Nick Bester, the NRC manager, said Shvetsov had put in some intense training over the last four months and was aiming for a gold medal - awarded to the top 10 finishers.
And while the Russian had set a mild goal, by his own standards, Bester was confident he would provide a stiff challenge.
"Shvetsov is a champion and as a foreigner, he brings a good element of competition and rivalry to the Comrades field," Bester said.
The 2012 Comrades Marathon, a 'down' run, starts in Pietermaritzburg on June 3.