Berlin moves into view after Samorin draws to a climax

Alina Reh wins gold in Samorin
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Germany's Alina Reh is targeting the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships after winning the U23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships

As the year heads towards its conclusion, and the last of the runners leave Samorin, so many will have one destination on their mind: Berlin 2018.

The athletics programme on the European Championships schedule will be the athletics event of the year, as the city co-hosts the inaugural multi-sport championships with Glasgow and there is no question the athletes cannot wait. 

In the moments after her brilliant win in the U23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships on Sunday, Germany's Alina Reh said: “Now I am going to celebrate and then get back to the training sessions as the upcoming European Championships is a huge motivation for me.” 

Reh will not be the only one thinking that as more than 500 athletes say farewell to Samorin with their dreams now focused on competing on the blue track in one of the most famous Olympic Stadiums in the world. 

The reason is straightforward: success breeds success and so many of those who made it onto the podium in Samorin are quietly become used to being medallists. 

The women’s U23 race was the perfect example. In the summer, Reh won silver in the 5000m at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz while Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who had to settle for silver behind Reh in Samorin, won the U23 1500m title in Bydgoszcz.

Both now end the year with more medals including individual gold medals as well as team silver in Samorin.

Berlin might come a little bit too soon for them as they are both only 20 but then again, they only have to look at a woman who is 21 today: Turkey’s Yasemin Can. She showed once again in Samorin that it does not matter which surface she runs on, she is in a class of her own and her tender years do not matter. 

Reh knows all about Can after finishing second to her in Bydgoszcz and the Turk will now be slowly preparing for the defence of her 5000m and 10,000m titles in Berlin having just retained her senior women’s title in Samorin. 

A golden summer, a golden winter - and now for another golden summer for Can? No woman has won the European 10,000m title twice - let alone successfully defended it - and as Can proved in Samorin, she is the one they will fear again. 

That is the beauty of the European Cross Country Championships. They answer questions on the day, emphatically, gloriously, spectacularly, while posing so many question going forward; answers which will be found in August when Berlin opens its doors.

Great Britain could reflect on a superb time in Samorin, as they topped the medal table once again with nine medals: five golds and four bronzes and every woman in their team left with a gold medal. 

Harriet Knowles-Jones won the U20 race, leading the British team to the team title while Jessica Judd came away with a bronze medal in the U23 as well as team gold. Individual medals just eluded the senior women’s team but with their three scoring counters all finishing ninth or higher, the team title was theirs.

Medals were spread across 12 nations, with Turkey second on the table with three gold medal, followed by France with two and one each for Spain, Germany and Norway. History was also made in the inaugural mixed relay as the Czech Republic claimed their first ever medal in championship history with silver. 

For now it’s “Goodbye Samorin” but it will not be long before it’s “Hello Berlin.”