Innes Fitzgerald of Great Britain took the women's title, while Axel Vang Christensen from Denmark emerged as the champion in the men's under 20 race.
Men’s Under 20 Race:
Axel Vang Christensen from Denmark emerged as the champion in the men's under 20 race, completing in 16:09 and edging out pre-event favorite Niels Laros from the Netherlands. Christensen made history by becoming the first athlete to win the European under 20 gold medal twice, albeit not in consecutive years, following his previous victory in 2021 in Dublin.
Christensen set a strong pace from the early stages. Laros took over the lead at the 3 km mark, with Nick Griggs and Christensen maintaining close contact. Sam Mills of Great Britain was trailing the leading trio. Despite Christensen’s surge, Laros and Griggs caught up, leading to an intense competition.
Eventually, Laros and Christensen gained a 20-meter lead over Griggs. In a dramatic finish, Christensen overtook Laros in the final 100 meters, winning by a second. Griggs secured the bronze medal in 16:24. Niall Murphy and Jonas Stafford finished ninth and 10th, respectively, helping the Irish team win the team gold with 22 points, while Sam Mills led Great Britain to team silver with 24 points. Ruben Leonardo’s eighth-place finish assisted Spain in clinching the team bronze with 43 points.
Reflecting on his performance, Axel Vang Christensen said, “The result was exactly what I hoped for, but it was a hard race. I struggled to find my rhythm. My hope in the final lap was that Niels was tiring, and over the final hill, I could tell he was struggling, which gave me hope. I managed to catch up in the last 100 meters with my kick.”
Women’s Under 20 Race:
Innes Fitzgerald of Great Britain clinched the women's under 20 gold medal at the European Cross Country Championships, outpacing European under 20 1500 meters silver medalist Sofia Thogersen from Denmark by a notable 25 seconds. Jade La Corre from France secured the bronze medal, finishing four seconds ahead of Germany’s Kira Weis.
Fitzgerald established a 10-second lead over La Corre with ten minutes into the race, while Thorgesen and Weis were vying for the third spot, 10 meters behind. Heading into the final lap, Fitzgerald had extended her lead to 11 seconds, with La Corre, Weis, and Thorgesen engaged in a tight contest for second place.
This victory marked Fitzgerald's first international title. The 17-year-old British athlete, known for her environmental activism, had chosen to travel by a 20-hour train from Exeter in South-West England to the previous year’s venue in La Mandria Park, Venaria Reale, near Turin, where she finished fourth.
Great Britain's triumph was further bolstered by top finishers Jess Bailey (8th) and Lizzie Wellsted (13th), leading their team to the gold medal for the 17th time in the history of the Championships, outperforming Germany and Sweden by 22 points.
Reflecting on her strategy, Innes Fitzgerald said, “Last year, I messed up at the start, so this time I wanted to push from the beginning. When I saw I was alone in front, I just kept going and pushing myself.”