Chahdi and Félix come back from the dead to claim their reward | 12.12.2012
|Hasan Chahdi of France competes during the senior
men's race in Budapest. (Getty Images)
Hassan Chahdi of France and Ana Dulce Félix of Portugal recovered from mid-race crises to claim silver medals with performances that were testament to their talent, grit and determination.
Chahdi started Sunday's race on the frozen snow of Szentendre as a favourite for a medal and set off with eventual winner, Andrea Lalli of Italy, as though the two of them were going to carve up the race between them.
But after five kilometres of running, the Frenchman could not match the Italian's cadence and fell back into the chasing group of seven. From this seemingly impossible position Chahdi managed to salvage silver in a ferocious charge over the last 700m.
"I wanted to make it hard from the start," explained Chahdi, "and was looking for allies. The two of us tried to make a race of it, but he [Lalli] was a little bit stronger than me. So he took off on his own and I fell back into the group."
Once the following group of seven had swallowed Chahdi up he seemed destined to drift to the back, but in an amazing turnaround he found a second wind with half lap to go and ran away from them once again to grab his reward.
"I then set off on the most difficult part of the course to get silver," explained the man from Annecy. "I am really extremely happy to get silver. It represented a lot of mental work. I came from a long way back. I fought tooth and nail to get second."
It was a similar story in the women's race for Portugal's Félix who also suffered a mid-race crisis even more extreme than Chahdi's to come through for silver.
After 15 minutes of running, the Portuguese 10000m European track champion was suffering badly and had become detached at the back of the chasing group of six behind the eventual winner, Fionnuala Britton of Ireland. With two kilometres to go Félix was dead and buried with no chance of a medal.
But suddenly with just over five minutes of running left, the Portuguese started her revival, passing one rival after another, until only the winner Britton was ahead: "It was a lot of suffering," said Félix on her arrival back at Lisbon airport on Monday.
"This silver medal is the fruit of a lot of hard work. But this one has a special flavour because it is the second I have won this year. I tried my best. I am proud of my medal."
In 2010 Félix collected European cross country bronze before winning silver last year and repeating the feat this year in Budapest. But given the conditions, she gave the impression she was happier with this medal than either of the other two.
"Believe me I am really happy. It was the first time I have competed in the snow. I almost could not see a thing."