Since the European Cross Country Championships started back in 1994, Italy has never won an individual medal in the senior women’s race but this could change on Sunday.
Veronica Inglese will start among the favourites and she will be looking to cap her season with her second continental medal after winning silver in the half marathon at the European Championships in Amsterdam.
The 26-year-old, whose best showing was an eighth-place finish back in 2013, was pre-selected for the European Cross Country Championships back in October and will be part of a 36-strong team heading for Sardinia.
Another leading medal hope for the home nation is reigning two-time junior champion Yemaneberhan Crippa who has graduated into the under-23 ranks since winning in Hyeres last year.
Crippa might not start as the gold medal favourite on this occasion with last year’s senior winner Ali Kaya stepping back down into the under-23 race but even if he falls short in his bid to claim a third individual title in succession, the Italians look set to fare particularly well in the team race.
— Atletica Italiana (@atleticaitalia) December 6, 2016
The junior title might remain in Italian hands as another leading medal hope for the host nation is European junior steeplechase champion Yohanes Chiappinelli, who finished fifth in the 3000m steeplechase final at the World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz this July.
After finishing fifth in 2014 and twentieth in 2015, this will be Chiappinelli’s last chance to make the podium in the under-20 category.
Another standout name in the 36-strong Italian team is 17-year-old Marta Zenoni, who has been breaking national age-group records over 800m and 1500m at will in recent seasons. Zenoni won a bronze medal over 800m at the World Youth Championships last year and can already boast a lifetime best of 2:01.91 over two laps of the track.