Turkey’s Yasemin Can gave herself the best possible birthday present as she became only the second woman to retain the senior women’s title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships with another dominant performance.
Can, who is 21 tomorrow, retained her gold from Chia by equalling the biggest winning margin in the history of the championships as she won in 26:48 - 15 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Meraf Bahta (27:03) who just edged out Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal (27:04), who won bronze for a third year in a row, in a brilliant sprint finish.
And from finishing sixth in 27:23, Charlotte Taylor led Great Britain to team gold with 23 points from Romania with 31, as Roxana Barca was their first runner home in fourth in 27:21, with Turkey taking team bronze with 54 points.
With five counters inside the top-15, the Brits claim the team title ahead of Romania and Turkey. pic.twitter.com/ZyBn48RxGy
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) December 10, 2017
If the race for second was thrilling and dramatic, the pursuit of gold was a one-woman show from Can who has simply become unbeatable at European level.
This 8.23km course, in cold conditions, did nothing to trouble her. The sun might have shone, but her yellow spikes shone even brighter as she was in front from almost a quarter of the way through and just broke further away.
A year ago in Chia, Can won by 10 seconds and then in the summer she added the European U23 5000m and 10,000m crowns to her burgeoning collection.
As much as her rivals try, there is no formula at the moment to stop her once she in charge as proved the case again today at the x-bionic sphere where she kept her head down and just powered through the laps in total control. It is a glorious trait, the ability to keep that concentration for so long, edging further in front all the time and knowing that you are not going to be challenged.
Can matched the feat of Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack by winning the crown for the second time in a row.
McCormack was the champion in 2011 and 2012 and here she ran well again as she finished 12th in 27:48 in a good field with two-time U20 champion Emelia Gorecka in eighth in 27:34, one spot ahead of her British teammate and former champion Gemma Steel in 27:41.
“It was not an easy race because it was very windy and cold,” said Can. “The wind was pushing me but I like to keep my own rhythm – to slow down and speed up whenever I want, so I did not mind that I had to run on my own. I am happy to have given myself this gold medal as a birthday present.”
Grovdal was third in Chia last year and she found herself in a brilliant duel with Bahta. The Swede also has a bronze to her name from this event back in 2014 so there was a different medal at stake for both of them but by having that slightly quicker touch of speed as the line approached, Bahta snatched it.
“I am so happy to have silver,” said Bahta. “I felt strong today. I still had power to run faster in the last metres of the race. It was nice, I really enjoyed it.”
Grovdal said: “The beginning was quite fast for me but I tried to keep up with the rest. On the last lap I got very tired and it was difficult to speed up at the end. I was aiming for a medal, so I am satisfied. It is great to have a collection of three medals.”