Belgium's D'Hoedt living the dream after Dublin

Jeroen D'Hoedt became Belgium's first individual gold medallist at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in a decade when he won the junior men's title in Dublin on Sunday and he still thinks it was all a dream.

"I still cannot believe it, it will take time for me to realise that I'm the European champion. Getting into the top five was the goal," reflected D'Hoedt.

The 19-year-old from Halle went into the race with good credentials, having won the 2009 European Junior Championships 3000m Steeplechase bronze medal but there were others on the start line that were certainly more favoured beforehand to get the gold medal.

However, D'Hoedt ran a tactically perfect race and stayed the shoulder of whoever pushed the pace, before getting to the front just 100m from the line and sprinting to victory to clinch his country's first individual victory since Hans Janssens won the junior men's title in 1999.

Curiously, Janssens was among the first to congratulate D'Hoedt as he was running in the senior men's race later in the day, in which he finished 44th.

"The Norwegian Moen (Sondre Nordstad Moen, last year's silver medallist who was to finish fourth this year) was the favourite for me. I was watching him carefully. I found the first two laps not at all fast and I knew that was a good sign. However, it was not my plan to take the initiative," commented D'Hoedt.

"On the last lap, when Wilkinson (Great Britain's James Wilkinson, who got the Steeplechase silver medal in front of D'Hoedt in Novi Sad) accelerated up the slope, I was in third position but my coach Dirk De Maesschalck was at that point on the course and he shouted at me that I had to go. That was the decisive moment and I knew I was fast enough in the last few hundred metres of the race to finish well.

"Everything has been going excellently in training," added the beaming Belgian. "I'm running times that I've never previously run. Of course, I wanted to win (in Dublin) but realistically I didn't actually believe I could do it, but everything came right at the right moment."

"I started in athletics quite young, at around the time 10 years ago that Hans Janssens was becoming a European champion but it was just playing really. For many years, I combined this sport with basketball but then, when I was 16, I finally opted for just athletics.  Apparently, I made the right choice," he joked.