Dublin is set to host the 27th edition of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships on Sunday 12 December. These championships return to Ireland after a successful edition in 2009.
Women’s senior race:
Turkey’s Yasemin Can will be seeking her fifth title in the senior race after claiming wins in Chia 2016, Samorin 2017, Tilburg 2018 and Lisbon 2019. Can also won two European gold medals in the 5000m and 10000m in Amsterdam 2016 and finished sixth in the 5000m at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. If Can succeeds in winning her fifth title, she would match Sergiy Lebid, who won five consecutive titles between 2001 and 2005 and nine gold medals in total (the Ukrainian runner also claimed four more titles in 1998, 2007, 2008 and 2010).
German star Konstanze Klosterhalfen will be in the spotlight in the women’s senior race. Klosterhalfen won the 5000m world bronze medal in Doha 2019, but was hampered by an a back injury for most of the 2021 season and made her come-back at the Olympc Games in Tokyo, where she finished seventh in the 10000m. She won in Pforzheim a few weeks ago beating Alina Reh by more than 30 seconds in her first cross country race since the European Cross Country Championships in Samorin in 2017, where she won the individual silver and team gold medals in the under 23 race when she was 20 years old. Klosterhalfen also won the European Under 20 Cross Country gold medal in Chia 2016 and two European Indoor silver medal in the 3000m in Belgrade 2017 and Glasgow 2019.
Alina Reh, who will also make her return to the European Cross Country Championships, won the European Under 23 individual gold medal ahead of Klosterhalfen in Samorin 2017, the under 20 team gold medal in Hyères in 2015 and the under 20 team silver in Chia 2016.
Fionnuala McCormak from Ireland won two consecutive European senior Cross Country gold medals in Velenje 2011 and Budapest 2012 and finished second in the under 23 category in San Giorgio su Legnano 2006. The Irish runner finished fifth at the Valencia Marathon in 2:23:57 last week setting the second fastest ever time by an Irish runner behind Catherina Mckiernan, who clocked 2:22:23 in Amsterdam in 1998. McCormack is due to extend her record of most appearances at these championships at women’s level with 17.
Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal is another solid contender at these championships. The Norwegian athlete won medals at five consecutive editions of the European Cross Country Championships. She finished third four times in Hyéres 2015, Chia 2016, Samorin 2017 and Tilburg 2018 and second in Lisbon 2019 and won two under 20 medals (silver in San Giorgio su Legnano 2006 and gold in Dublin 2009). On the track she won two European bronze medals in the 10000m in Amsterdam 2016 and in the 3000m steeplechace in Berlin 2018.
Meraf Bahta from Sweden is looking to complete her set of medal at these championships aftre winning bronze in 2014 and silver in 2017 behind Can.
Emilie Moller from Denmark will make her debut in the senior race after winning two consecutive European Under 23 cross country titles in Tilburg 2018 and Lisbon 2019. The Danish athlete won three European Under 23 titles (two in the 3000m steeplechase in 2017 and 2019 and one in the 5000 metres in 2019).
Jessica Judd from Great Britain recently won the British Cross County title in Liverpool. Judd led the women’s British team to their sixth European Cross Country gold medal since 2011 in the 2019 edition in Lisbon.
Israel could win the first ever European cross country medal with Selamawit Teferi, who finished second at the European 10000m Cup in Birmingham and finished 10th in the 5000m in the Olympic final in Tokyo.
Former individual European senior gold medallist Sophie Duarte from France is the oldest athlete in the French team for more than a decade.
The other top names are former European Under 23 10000m champion Jip Vastenburg from the Netherlands, 2005 European Under 20 champion Ancuta Bobocel from Romania, who makes her come-back to international competitions after maternity leave.
Women’s under 23 race:
Italian middle-distance running star Nadia Battocletti won two back-to-back European Under 20 Cross Country gold medals in Tilburg 2018 and Lisbon 2019. The daughter of former distance runner Giuliano Battocletti is the only Italian woman to have won an individual title in the history of the European Cross Championships.
Battocletti will be seeking her second title in this age group in 2021 after winning the 5000m gold medal at the European Under 23 Championships in Tallin 2021.
She went on to finish seventh in the 5000m Olympic final in Tokyo in 14:46.29 setting the second fastest time in Italian athletics history behind Roberta Brunet’s national record of 14:44.50 set in 1996. Battocletti was the second European finisher behind olympic champion Sifan Hassan. Italian athletics has enjoyed a very successful season and is looking to finish the year on a high note.
The 21-year-old Italian runner finished 12th and first among European athletes in her first cross country race since the track season in a world-class competition in Atapuerca on 14 November. She is still eligible for the under 23 race at next year’s edition of the European Cross Country Championships in Turin.
Nadia Battocletti: “After a season like this, one can only continue to dream”.
Battocletti became the third woman to have won consecutive European Cross Country under 20 titles after Stephanie Twell (three-time winner in 2006, 2007 and 2008) and Konstanze Klosterhalfen (2015 and 2016).
Battocletti will face Klara Lukan from Slovenia, who won their head-to-head clash in the 5000m at the 2019 European Under 20 Championships in Boras. Battocletti avenged this defeat by beating Lukan at both the last edition of the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon 2019 and in the European Under 23 Championships in Tallin last July.
Mariana Machado from Portugal finished third in the under 20 race in Lisbon behind Battocletti and Lukan and will line up in the under 23 category in Fingal-Dublin. Machado came back from an injury poblem with a win at the Portuguese Cross Country Championships beating 2010 European Cross Country champion Jessica Augusto.
Sarah Healy leads the home team after finishing second in the National Cross Country Championhips. The 20-year-old Irish middle-distance runner won the European Under 20 silver medal in the 1500m in Boras 2019 and two gold medals in the 1500m and 3000m at the European Under 18 Championships in Gyor 2018. Ireland won the team silver medal at the 2019 European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon.
European under 23 steeplechase champion Flavie Renouard and bronze medallist Aude Clavier lead a strong French team. France has not won a women’s team title at any age-group at the European Cross Country Championships.
Women’s under 20 race:
Norway could continue the strong tradition in under 20 races at these championships after the gold medals won by Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the past four editions. This time it could be the turn of Ingeborg Ostgard, who won the European Under 20 gold medal in the 1500m in Tallin. This autumn season Ostgard won the Nordic Cross Country Championships under 20 race beating Danish 16-year-old Sofia Thorgesen, who won the 3000m European Under 20 silver medal in Tallin.
The other European Under 20 champions from Tallin 2021 in the line-up are Ilona Mononen from Finland and Carla Dominguez from Spain. Mononen won the 3000m gold medal beating Thorgesen. Dominguez claimed the 5000m title and finished fifth over this distance at the World Under 20 Championships in Nairobi.
Valentina Rosamilia from Switzerland is looking to end her successful season on a high note after winning the European Under 20 bronze in Tallin and the world under 20 silver in Nairobi in the 800 metres.
Greta Varga from Hungary won the European Under 20 silver medal in the 3000m steeplechase in Tallin and could be in contention for the podium in Dublin. She finished seventh in the under 20 race in Lisbon at the age of 15.
Great Britain will start as the favourite for the team title after winning 16 of the last 20 editions since 2000. The other medal contenders are Spain, Noway and France.
Elise Vanderelst from Belgium will be chasing her second continental medal this year after winning the European Indoor gold medal in the 1500m in Torun last March.
Lore Hoffman, who narrowly missed the 800m Olympic final last summer in Tokyo, leads the Swiss team in the mixed relay.
Great Britain is seeking its third team gold medal in the mixed relay.