Under 23 men's final: Ingebrigtsen shows a touch of class | 09.12.2012
|Henrik Ingebrigsten of Norway celebrates after
winning the U23 Men's race during the 19th SPAR
European Cross Country Championships in
Budapest. (Photo by Getty Images)
The margin of victory was 10 seconds over silver medallist, Sofiane Bouchikhi of Belgium with James Wilkinson of Great Britain adding bronze to the silver he won last year.
Norway won this category for the first time last year but they were without their outstanding pairing of Sondre Nordstad Moen and Sindre Buraas at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Budapest.
As things turned out they had a more than capable representative in Ingebrigtsen who made a name for himself in the most startling way possible during the summer when he emerged from the pack in the Helsinki 2012 European Athletics Championships to snatch 1500m gold.
In Velenje, Ingebrigtsen was only 15th but one year on and with new-found confidence from last summer, he turned up the gas on the final lap to prove that he was in a class of his won.
Once again, it was the barn that proved it transformative power because it was Bouchikhi who entered the huge doors first only for the Norwegian to come out the other side operating at a different gear.
Norwegians and snow are not entirely alien but there had been nothing in the early stages of this race that suggested Ingebrigtsen was going to win.
In a bizarre start, Spain's Abdelaziz Merzoughi shot into an early lead and set about constructing what seemed like a highly improbable tactic of running away with the race from the gun.
At one stage the gap had grown alarmingly to 40m to the chasing group and it seemed that a man who had only finished 38th the year before was going to tear up all the predictions.
But after 11min of running the Spaniard started to tread water and the pack rapidly closed with Bouchikhi leading the charge. To his credit, though, instead of folding, Merzoughi actually held on to finish seventh only 27 seconds down on the winner.
Now it was Bouchikhi's turn to break the field and he stole 15m with Ingebrigsten, Wilkinson and the Netherland's Jesper van der Wielen hanging on.
With 2km to go Wilkinson had edged into second and taken Ingebrigtsen with him while the Dutchman started to struggle but up front Bouchikhi looked safe.
But that was when Ingebrigtsen decided enough was enough and it was time to rumble.
With two in the top ten, Romain Collenet-Spiret (5) and Simon Denissel (10), France took team gold with Spain in silver and Great Britain claiming bronze.
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