Hassan runs away with gold

Hassan runs away with gold
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Dutch star Sifan Hassan showed what a talented runner she is taking the women's senior title from Great Britain's Kate Avery and Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal of Norway in Hyères on Sunday.

Sifan Hassan once more showed that she has the ability to handle the greatest of pressure and expectation with a brilliant individual performance at these SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

The Dutch 22-year-old is one of the finest young runners in the world. She is the European 1500m champion indoor and out and two years ago in Belgrade she won the under-23 gold at the Eurocross.

Now in a senior cross country event which will live long in the memory, Hassan won by eight seconds in a world-class field that could not match the punishing break she made bang on 10 minutes into the action.

Hassan was in front, a stride or two ahead of Spain’s Trihas Gebre, as the runners were making their way through the four of the shorter laps.

Suddenly she increased the pace and she was gone.

To such an extent that after 2.4km there was no time difference between her, Gebre and Finland’s Johanna Peiponen in 7:35, and then by the next checkpoint of 3.7km, Hassan was six seconds in front of Gebre in 11:41.

It was a lead that was never troubled as the Dutch runner won in 25:47 from Great Britain’s Kate Avery (25:55), taking silver for the second year in a row, and Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal (25:57).

But also, as 12 months ago, Avery leaves with a gold, too, after Britain retained their team title with 33 points from France (78) and Ireland (83).

Hassan said: "At first, as I am a 1500m runner, the pace seemed too slow to me. It was really easy and I accelerated. But then it became increasingly hard.

"The mounds were difficult to ride, I was getting tired more and more and the last kilometre was really difficult."

The mounds were just one part of this tricky course. They were brought in with heaps of sand and it means a slowing of pace, the need to keep your feet steady and when you come down, the ability to balance properly.

Hassan did all that right throughout and she will now head to South Africa for warm-weather training to prepare for 2016 after a brilliant year of success.

Avery was beaten by the smallest of margins in Samokov, losing to her teammate Gemma Steel. The defending champion could make no impact this time among the leaders and she was eighth (26:25).

But it was an emotional day for Avery - for many reasons.

She said: "I did not really expect to be here. My dad recently passed away. He was my biggest support. I thought a lot about him today.

"It was a totally different race from last year. I feel like I really had to build up for that second place and I finished behind such an amazing athlete."

Grovdal said: "It's fantastic because I was hoping for a medal. I was fourth in the race and I came back."

Though she had talked more about team success for Ireland, double gold medallist Fionnuala McCormack ran brilliantly as she finished fourth (26:00) and her aim was achieved as, amid darkening skies, her nation won bronze.

France took silver with Clemence Calvin (26:17) in seventh and European marathon champion Christelle Daunay (26:44) in 18th their first two, but Britain were the clear winners.

Steph Twell (26:08) was sixth, two places ahead of Steel, with Lauren Howarth (26:43) in 17th.

Local Organising Committee