Senior women's preview: Felix and Britton to vie for the cross crown in Budapest | 04.12.2012
|European 10,000m champion Ana Dulce Felix of
Portugal is in top form ahead of the SPAR European
Cross Country Championships in Budapest on
The first two places were filled by under-23 runners and the first senior, Louise Damen, was a full 14 seconds behind the winner with a further substantial 20 second gap to Caryl Jones.
Having said that, the Portuguese who were silver medallists in Velenje have gaps in their armour as well. The comfortable winner of their final trials race was Sara Moreira, two-time European 5000m bronze medallist, who was a full 30 seconds ahead of Ercilia Machado at the line. Machado appears to have made a successful comeback over the country after nine months out with injury.
The ace in the pack for Portugal’s women is Ana Dulce Felix, individual silver medal winner in Velenje, who showed enormous strength in the Helsinki last summer when she pulled away from Britain’s Jo Pavey for a clear win in the 10000m at the European Athletics Championships.
Her form over the country has been equally impressive. After a comfortable 20 second win over domestic competition in Amora, she travelled to Tilburg for a sterner test against international opposition and won that by five seconds from the Dutch hope, Adrienne Herzog.
Felix has collected bronze and silver in the last two editions of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships. Time for gold?
Reigning champion, Fionnuala Britton of Ireland, has also been in excellent form this autumn and will be hard to dislodge as champion. In her first foray over the country, Britton logged a fourth place in Atapuerca. She was missing from the Irish trials because she preferred to seek a sterner test in northern France where in Le Cross de L’Acier she finished a fine third.
But it is maybe to her track times this summer just gone that we may need to look for some indication of Britton’s improved form. Over 3000m, 5000m and 10000m, she has set three lifetime bests this year, a range of events that may translate well over the country and give her that extra edge.
Belgium, meanwhile, could be eyeing a double triumph with Bekele targeting the men’s race and Almensch Belete, a new star on the women’s side who ran out a comfortable winner in Roeslare, raising the possibility of a double Belgian triumph in Szentendre.
Belete is confident of winning in Hungary. At the end of the Roeslare race she announced she had been suffering from a cold and that her intention was to lift the individual European cross crown.
|Defending champion Fionnuala Britton of Ireland.
Their sixth placer from last year, Sophie Duarte, leads the pack of Christine Bardelle, Magali Bernard, Severine Hamel, Maryline Pellen and Laurane Picoche.
Picoche in particular ran well to finish just two places behind Britton in L’Acier and ahead of Duarte and is clearly in better form than last year. In fact, the French team so impressed middle-distance chief, Phillipe Dupont, that he is forecasting high placings for his two best women: “Picoche and Duarte have shown that they are of sufficient quality to finish in the top ten in Szentendre. This is going to make the team race where we were close to the podium last year very interesting.”
Italy have put out a strong squad led by last year’s fourth placed finisher in the individual race, Nadia Ejjafini. In Velenje she was not afraid to mix it up front and this summer over track and road she has set four lifetime bests from 5000m/10000m to 10km and 10 miles. At the age of 35 Ejjafini is in the shape of her life and in her only outing over the country so far she finished just behind Britton and Moreira.
Hosts, Hungary, will be represented by Krisztina Papp who is a former European under-23 10,000m champion (2003). This autumn she won the Budapest half marathon in a time just outside 75 minutes, though her best is some four minutes faster.