Britton has Belgrade - and only Belgrade - on her mind

Britton has Belgrade - and only Belgrade - on her mind
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Today the 2013 SPAR European Athletics Cross Country Championships press conference was held at the Belgrade city hall ahead of tomorrow's events.

Fionnuala Britton will not think about the history that could be created in Belgrade on Sunday.

She is in the city to win a race. Never mind that victory will make it a hat-trick of successes for her at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships. 

The Irish runner became the first woman to win back-to-back titles when she triumphed in Budapest last year, 12 months after her success in Velenje, two gold medals which make her the favourite for this 8km event again.

As she spoke on Saturday ahead of the race, Britton revealed it is all about the one-off occasion. 

"I have to focus on this single race and can’t think about winning three in a row," she said.

In Hungary, the course was covered in snow, while on Sunday the weather will be milder in a race where the runner-up from last year - Portugal's Anna Dulce Felix - is among those looking to break Britton's stranglehold of the event.

Britton is all too aware of how strong the opposition is and she said: "Most of the top 10 from last year are here again. The conditions are a lot different than last year, so it’s very hard to say who my biggest rivals are."

After Budapest at the end of 2012, she then fulfilled an aim of winning a medal on the track with her bronze in the 3000m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg in March before illness ruined her summer, forcing her to miss the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August. 

Now she is back, she is determined to make up for that unexpected break.

Britton said: "I started training at the same time as usual but with more motivation since being sick." 

The women's under-23 race will be one of the most-watched by the Serbian fans with the presence of their brilliant young star Amela Terzic who was also at the press conference on Saturday ahead of the championships.

She won the junior title in Budapest and then took the 1500m crown at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Tampere in the summer. 

Now Terzic, 20, is making her debut at this new age group at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and is embracing the whole occasion being in her own country, though it will prove a new test after the junior races were run over 4km.

She said: "I am very honoured to participate in my home city, and the final position is not important as long as I give my best. The 6km distance is a challenge to me and I need to stay focused on my race and no-one else's." 

Second behind her in Budapest was Great Britain's Emelia Gorecka, 19, who completes her junior cross country career chasing her seventh medal.

"I have had great success in the juniors. A part of me will be disappointed if I don't win gold, but as long as I execute to my best I will come away proud of myself. 

"My speed work is coming along quite well and I don’t tend to look at the list of opponents because you never know who’s going to be in shape and a surprise can come from anywhere."

The men's senior race is wide open and, like Terzic, Goran Nava is hoping he can give his home crowd something to cheer about. 

Nava knows all about winning a medal in Belgrade because four years ago he took silver in the 800m when the city staged the Universiade.

"This is my first time in the 10km and I will try my best but without any specific result in mind. 

The course seems fast and technically not that difficult which could be to the track runners' advantage, but the beauty of cross country is that runners from different distances all have an opportunity." 

He backed Terzic to bring glory for Serbia, stressing how much he is looking forward to the championships.

 

"The organisers have done a great job and I hope our Amela can win gold," he said. "But most importantly I hope our people will come in numbers to give us their support."