Bettering the world track and field championships' A qualifying time of 3m 35s is Nick Willis' prime objective as he lines up in the Diamond League 1500m in Paris on Saturday morning (NZT).

The 28-year-old is in the right place to try. Willis is competing at the 81,000-seat Stade de France - the same venue where he broke Sir John Walker's 30-year-old national 1500m record of 3m 32.4s by 0.02s in 2005, as well as his own record the following year in a time of 3m 32.17s.

Willis says racing at the venue - which hosted the 1998 World Cup football final and 2007 World Cup rugby final - offers several advantages: "Regardless of the weather it's always calm inside the stadium - the perfect race environment with no swirling wind.

"It helps that [Frenchman] Mehdi Baala is also expected to race. He's the guy I beat on the line at the Beijing Olympics. He gets a lot of support heading on to the track. You've got to walk from the tunnel to the 1500m start line on the other side of the track and he gets cheered the whole way. It amps you up.

"It wouldn't surprise me if I ran close to my personal best or a bit under; I also would not be surprised if I struggled but ran a decent time. I'd be upset if I didn't go under the A standard."

Willis is the 35th fastest 1500m runner this year. Kenyans fill 17 of the spots in front of him but only three athletes from one country can compete at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, starting August 27.

A sub-3m 35s time would place Willis at 19th in the world with 12 Kenyans still better - but it's almost three years (Monaco, July 29, 2008) since he did that.

Willis says reverse psychology suggests the stronger the Kenyan times now, the better it bodes for his campaign.

"Their dilemma is that only three go to the world championships. It becomes a crapshoot because so many are trying to get on that team, especially running trials on a worn track at altitude in Nairobi. They also tend to treat each Grand Prix event as equally important to any other race because their livelihoods are at stake.

"The world championships are just nine weeks away so the better they do now, the more challenging it's going to be to sustain that standard later in the year. It might seem odd cheering your rivals but I hope they run world-record times."

Willis has run twice since finishing a month of altitude training in Arizona in May. His best time since descending from 2130m above sea level was 3m 36.46s to finish second at a New York meet on June 11. Willis is lukewarm about the new programme's benefits. He is still contemplating whether to incorporate it into his programme for next year's Olympics.

"I didn't quite reach the levels I was hoping for in my two races so far. I have to be patient and accept you can't always have that X-factor performance. I'll wait until season's end to make a full evaluation.

"At the moment we haven't seen any immediate benefits when gauging it against the negatives of being away from home, church, friends and family. We've only been home [in Ann Arbor, Michigan] seven weeks this year. My performances have been decent but, if anything, not quite as good as what I've done in the past at sea level."

Willis competed in what he described as a "rust-buster" overnight in Cork to rid him of jetlag for this week.

He is also salivating at the prospect of tucking into some of his favourite Italian cuisine over the next couple of months. He and wife Sierra will spend more than a fortnight later this month in the town of Spoleto, an hour and a half northeast of Rome. They will stay with Sierra's sister who is a pianist in a local opera over the northern summer.

"I can't wait to enjoy the pizza, pasta, gelato and other amazing desserts. The difference is in Italy they always eat in healthy portions so you don't feel you're overdoing it, unlike America where they stuff you then ask if you want dessert and it's like 'you're kidding me'."

Willis intends to race three more times before the world championships.