Senior men's preview: Is it Lamdassem's turn to grab the gold? | 04.12.2012
|Spain's Ayad Lamdassem will settle for nothing less
than a gold in Buadpest.
In the senior men's race, Spain's Ayed Lamdassem has already finished second twice in the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and after finishing first Spaniard home in their trials race in Alcobendas, he will once again be pitching for victory.
Spanish cross country champion, Carles Castillejo, was well beaten in the trials by Lamdassem, coming home third Spaniard, 13 seconds down, with Alberto Lozano also ahead of Castillejo. The Spaniards as always will turn up with a solid squad keen to improve on last year's team bronze.
Spain's men have finished third in the team event over those past two races off the back of Lamdassem's silver-medal run and, as ever, they are an obvious contender for medals this time round.
The double silver medallist is joined by Castillejo, Javier Guerro, former miler Juan Carlos Higuero, veteran and former steeplechaser Antonio David Jimenez and Lozano.
All the early forecasts for individual honours pointed to Lamdassem once again fighting it out with Belgium's Ayelaw Bekele. In last year's race, Bekele launched an early bid for victory and he built up an unassailable lead that gave him the luxury of being able to ease off in the final stages, crossing the line five seconds clear of the Spaniard.
But any idea he might spring the same surprise this time round is doubtful after a Belgian trials race that saw Bekele well beaten by fellow Belgian Bashir Abdi. Abdi has been training in Kenya in the build-up to Szentendre and he appears to have timed his preparation to perfection.
Winners of the team race in Velenje, France have great hopes for individual honours. Hassan Chahdi was an excellent fourth last year and is aiming to improve on that. He tasted victory in the U23 bracket two years ago and last year he only missed out on a senior individual medal by one second. But he still led home the triumphant French squad to gold in the team race, crushing the British contingent by 25 points.
But the French might not find it so easy this time round as the British trials saw some tight packing that indicates a well-balanced squad. Last year's British champion, Andy Vernon, was beaten in the trials this year by Jonathan Taylor, but the top six packed in 12 seconds and will be looking to press the French for the team title. Taylor and Vernon are joined by Tom Farrell, Keith Gerrard, Tom Humphries and Steve Vernon.
Ukraine's Serhiy Lebid is still harbouring ambitions of a further title to add to his remarkable nine golds in this event. Last year, the Ukrainian's preparations were marred by snow at his training base in Kislovodsk which led to him dropping out in Velenje after 7.5 kilometres.
|Ukraine's cross country legend Serhiy Lebid is always a force to be
"I'm feeling great and have no problems with injuries," notes Lebid. "There is no sense for me to come to Budapest just as one of the participants. I have to be in my greatest shape to have ability to fight for my 10th gold medal."
Ireland's Joe Sweeney, fifth last year, showed his good form continues after taking a hat trick of wins in the Irish inter-counties. Another potential medallist is Italy's Daniele Meucci who finished just behind Bekele in Roeslare and is clearly capable of getting on to the podium. On the track Meucci finished second to Britain's Mo Farah in the 10000m at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki.
As usual, Portugal will be hard to contain but they will be without their lead runner, Jose Rocha, the bronze medallist at Velenje 2011, who won their trials by 12 seconds but won't be making the trip. Always a force to be reckoned with, last year's fourth place in the team standings travel with Antonio Silva, who finished second in the trials behind Rocha, Alberto Paulo, Bruno Jesus, Fernando Silva, Luis Feiteira and Paulo Gomes.
Hosts Hungary include Albert Minczer, one of their leading distance runners who competed in the 3000m steeplechase at this summer's Olympic Games in London.
Minczer, 26, will be at the helm of the Hungarian quintet of Barnabas Bene, former 5000m European junior champion and U23 bronze medallist, Gabor Faldum, Gabor Jozsa and Gyorgy Horvath.