A quiet air of confidence surrounds Nick Willis as he gets set for his third straight Olympic 1500m final.
It would seem the classic Kiwi underdog might just be developing a hint of mongrel.
Willis had little to say to reporters after breezing through the mixed zone as quickly as he did his semifinal at a packed Olympic Stadium yesterday. But his brother, confidante, sounding board and assistant coach, Steve Willis, was happy later to paint the picture of a 29-year-old who no longer doubts his abilities, and certainly does not fear his rivals.
There was even a hint of trash talk in some of the observations from Willis the elder ahead of tomorrow's final, enough to make you sense that the Beijing silver medallist fully believes he can go one better this time round.
Sure, he will need a few things to go his way - a la four years ago - but there is an underlying feeling that a repeat medal is on if he is good, and smart, enough.
Steve Willis agreed with an observation that his brother was a different beast from the one happy to skirt around in the shadows in Beijing.
He has well and truly proven himself in this marquee middle-distance event, and with that comes a swagger that has not always been part of his makeup.
"He's gone up a level in terms of his confidence," he said. "The fact that he was able to put such a good block of training together, and then pull off a nice race in Monaco has really helped with that.
"Last time just making the final was the goal and then seeing what he could do. But this time I think he has that confidence that being in the final is where he needed to be, and still hopefully holding things in fourth gear so [he] can step it up to fifth gear on Tuesday."
Willis qualified with ease, and in the fastest semi, by eight seconds.
It was never in doubt as he slipped through on the inside track to cruise home third in a more than useful 3min 34.70sec.
Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider won the race in 3:33.99 and dangerous Kenyan Silas Kiplogat was second in 3:34.60.
Another Kenyan danger man, Nixon Chepseba, made the most of his second chance (via protest, after he initially failed to qualify from the heats) to trail Willis home in fourth.
The gold medal favourite and defending champion, Kenya's Asbel Kiprop, was second in the other semifinal, easing home behind surprise winner Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi, who notched a pedestrian 3:42.24.
On the subject of the Kenyans, who say they will race as a team in the final (8.15am tomorrow, NZ time), Steve Willis had some interesting observations.
"You never really know after the heats who's in really good form, but the semifinals give a pretty fair indication, so we feel like we know who the key guys are going to be in the final.
There were a few surprises - some of the Kenyans didn't look as good as what we originally thought.
"So he's feeling pretty confident that he's in with a good shot. The Kenyans are always going to be tough, but it seems like there might be a few chinks in their armour."
Steve Willis, himself a sub-four miler back in the day, added Makhloufi, Ethiopian Mekkonen Gebremedhin and Iguider to the list of threats.
"There are going to be some really tough guys there, it's just a matter of who can run a smart race and who can finish the last 300 really well."
But it is clear to anyone who follows Willis on Twitter that the one-time kid from the Hutt, now based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is in a relaxed frame of mind.
He has been soaking up the experience, and sharing it with all and sundry.
"This being his third Olympics, it's got to help. He's been there and it's always tough to go to a place you haven't been before. I think he's feeling pretty good and if you can stay relaxed you're going to be able to run more efficiently."
The good news was that Willis was healthy.
An ice-bath and rub immediately after his semi got the recovery process under way, and after a relaxed day where he will leave the village to check in with wife Sierra and coach Ron Warhurst, he will switch back into Games mode, come Tuesday.
"He doesn't need a lot of input in terms of how to run tactically. He's pretty smart. It's just a matter of reassuring him that he can do what he wants to do."