Preview for the European Cross Country Championships Turin 2022 women's under 20 and under 23 races.
Women's Under 20 race:
Sofia Thogersen from Denmark will be seeking another European podium in the under 20 race after winning the bronze medal in the 2000 metres steeplechase and the gold medal in the 3000 metres with the last lap in 60 seconds at the European Under 18 Championships in Jerusalem last July.
Ingeborg Ostgard from Norway won the under-20 silver cross county medal in Dublin last year and is looking to win the gold medal in her final year of eligibility in the junior category. Ostgard won the 1500 metres European under 20 gold medal in Tallin in 2021.
Thogersen beat Ostgard by 1 second at the Nordic Cross Country Championships in Kristansand last November.
Finnish medal hopes are carried by Ilona Mononen, who won the European under 20 gold medal in the 3000 metres. Annemari Sandell won the only gold medal for Finland in the history of the European Cross Country Championships at 18 in 1995.
Innes Fitzgerald leads the British team after winning the under-20 race at the National Trials in Liverpool last November with her front-running tactic. The 16-year-old athlete improved Jessica Judd's British under-17 record to 8:59.67 in the 3000 meters. She is coached by Gavin Pavey, the husband of former 10000m European champion Jo Pavey.
British athletes have won 25 of the 48 individual and team medals on offer since the under-20 category was added to the program of the European Cross Country Championships.
Great Britain finished third in the under-20 team ranking last year and will be aiming to return to the top of the podium this year.
The other top contenders for the podium are Greta Varga from Hungary, who finished seventh in the European Under 20 race cross country race in Lisbon 2019 at the age of 19, and Ayca Fidanoglou from Turkey, European Under 18 silver medallist in the 1500 metres.
Women's Under 23 race:
Defending champion Nadia Battocletti from Italy will face last year's European Under 20 gold medallist Megan Keith from Great Britain.
Battocletti will be seeking her fourth European Cross Country gold medal after winning back-to-back under-20 titles in Tilburg 2018 and Lisbon 2019 and one under-23 title in Fingal-Dublin last year. Battocletti finished seventh in the 5000m at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, setting the second-fastest time in Italian athletics history with 14:46.29 in Tokyo 2021. An injury problem sidelined the construction-engineering student during a difficult season, but she made her come-back by finishing seventh in the 5000m at the European Championships in Munich. Her father and coach, Giuliano Battocletti finished seventh at the European Cross Country Championships in Ferrara 1998, leading the Italian team to the senior men's team title.
Battocletti returned to competitions this autumn with a sixth place in the World Athletics cross-country race in Atapuerca ahead of Yasemin Can. The Italian athlete then finished second to Kenya's Lucy Mawia in another cross-country race in Alcobendas last weekend.
Battocletti will be joined by Anna Arnaudo, who finished sixth at last year's edition of the European Championships in Dublin, contributing to the women's under-23 title for the Italian team.
Nadia Battocletti: "When I returned from Munich, I found that I was suffering from mononucleosis. It took a six-week break to recover from it. That went with it in terms of physical fatigue. I stayed still for a month and a half until the beginning of October. For about a month, I have started training again and am finally in control of my body I am happy with how the two recent races in Spain went. I have been around 70%-80%, but I plan to reach my best shape."
Megan Keith from Great Britain won the women's under 20 titles in Dublin last year and steps up into the under 23 categories this year. Keith claimed one of the five gold medals for the British team. Last November, she finished runner-up to Jess Warner-Judd in the British Cross Country Trials in Liverpool.
The other medal contenders are Mariana Machado, who finished third in the under-23 race at last year's edition in Dublin behind Battocletti, Slovenia's Klara Lukan, and Sarah Healy, who won the Irish senior cross country title on November 27 November beating Clara Mageean.
Emma Heckel won the European under-20 silver leading Germany to the team title, and will make her debut in the under-23 race.
Nathalie Blomqvist from Finland recently showed her good shape by winning the Nordic title in Kristiansand last November.