Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal of Norway triumphed and Yann Schrub of France triumphed at the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels on Sunday, December 10.
Women's Senior Race:
Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal of Norway triumphed in the European Cross Country Championships, securing her third straight gold in the women's race with a time of 33:40. Italy's Nadia Battocletti, a two-time under-23 champion in 2021 and 2022, claimed silver in her first senior race, clocking 34:25. She finished just ahead of Great Britain's Abbie Donnelly, who completed the course in 34:42.
This victory places Grovdal among an elite group of athletes who have won three consecutive senior European Cross Country titles, a feat previously achieved by Yasemin Can, a four-time winner from 2016 to 2019, and Sergiy Lebid, who has nine gold medals to his name. This latest win marks Grovdal's tenth individual medal at these championships over her career.
In the team competition, Great Britain emerged victorious in the senior women's category, amassing 18 points and leading Spain with 37 points and Belgium with 38 points. The race saw Grovdal in the company of fellow front-runners Nadia Battocletti, Abbie Donnelly, Jessica Warner-Judd, and Sarah Lahti, an Olympic 10000 meters finalist from Sweden. However, Lahti fell behind before the halfway mark and eventually withdrew from the race.
During the race, Grovdal established a significant six-second lead over Donnelly, who herself was eight seconds ahead of Battocletti. At the halfway point, Grovdal was leading, followed by Donnelly and Battocletti, with Jessica Judd Warner trailing Battocletti by four seconds in fourth place. Fionnuala McCormack, in her 18th appearance at these championships, was ten seconds behind Judd.
As the race progressed, Grovdal extended her lead to an impressive 20 seconds. In the final lap, McCormack overtook Judd to secure fourth place, finishing 27 seconds behind Battocletti.
Ultimately, Grovdal maintained her lead and crossed the finish line with a record-breaking 45-second margin, the largest ever in the senior races at these championships. Reflecting on her victory, Grovdal commented, "Everyone thinks that I am training in mud like this, but I don’t. Actually, I am a track athlete, but I have a background in cross country skiing. That’s probably why I am good at cross country. Of course, I will try to win a fourth title next year, but three in a row is already amazing."
Nadia Battocletti expressed satisfaction with her achievement of securing her first senior medal at this event. She commented on the race, noting, "It was a beautiful course, but there was too much mud. When I saw it, I got a little bit scared because I don’t really like running in the mud. I think that I won this medal mainly because of my mental strength.”
Fionnuala McCormack, a two-time European Cross Country champion, finished just outside the medal positions, securing fourth place with a time of 35:00. This performance came just a week after she qualified for her fifth Olympic Games at the Valencia Marathon. Meanwhile, Jessica Warner-Judd finished in fifth place, clocking in at 35:20. This result marked her fourth top-ten finish at the event.
In the team competition, Irene Sanchez Escribano's 11th-place finish played a pivotal role in leading Spain to a silver medal. Similarly, Lisa Rooms' performance, also finishing 11th, was instrumental in securing the team bronze for Belgium.
Men’s senior race:
Yann Schrub of France achieved a historic victory in the men's 9 km race at the European Cross Country Championships, finishing in 30:17. He edged out Norway's Magnus Tuv Myhre, who came in second with a time of 30:20, and Belgium's Robin Hendrix, who completed the race in 30:22. Great Britain's Hugo Milner finished closely behind in fourth place, recording a time of 30:27. Among the other notable Belgian runners, John Heymans finished sixth, while pre-event favorite Isaac Kimeli placed eleventh.
Schrub's win marks the first time a French athlete has won the men's senior race at these championships, making it a significant milestone for French athletics.
In the team competition, Belgium clinched the gold medal with a total of 20 points, outperforming France, which scored 30 points, and Norway, which accumulated 38 points.
Norwegian runner Henrik Ingebrigtsen finished in 12th place, just ahead of Italy's European 10000 meters champion Yeman Crippa. Remarkably, a member of the Ingebrigtsen family has secured a podium finish for the seventh consecutive year at these championships.
Early in the race, eight minutes in, a group comprising Bastien Augusto and Yann Schrub from France, Britain's triathlon specialist Hugo Milner, Norway's Magnus Tuv Myhre, and Italy’s Yeman Crippa pulled ahead, creating a small gap. Milner led the pace for the first two 1500 meters, reaching the 3000 meters mark in 9:47, closely followed by Schrub, Augusto, and Myhre. As the race progressed, Milner, Schrub, and Myhre engaged in a tight battle, while Augusto fell behind.
Schrub and Milner increased their pace, extending their lead over Myhre to five seconds. Myhre, meanwhile, established a gap over Belgian runners Hendrix and Heymans.
In the final laps, Schrub accelerated, pulling away decisively to secure the victory in front of his supporters who had traveled from France. His competitors could not match his pace. Although Milner strived to maintain second place, he was overtaken by Tuv Myhre and Hendrix in the final kilometer.
Myhre ultimately secured the second position, finishing two seconds ahead of Hendrix. This win adds to Schrub's impressive athletic record, including a bronze medal in the 10000 meters at the 2022 European Championships in Munich and a ninth-place finish in the same event at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest.
Reflecting on his victory, Schrub shared, “It was an incredible experience. I had extraordinary legs today. I prepared really well, even if we did not focus on these championships. My legs were amazing from the beginning until the end. In the beginning, I found myself in the lead and thought that this is not where I am supposed to be and thought that the others would come back.”