SOPHIE DUARTE, the 2013 gold medallist, will spearhead an immensely strong team from the host nation France at next month’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Hyères.
Duarte is joined in the senior women’s squad by Christelle Daunay, the European marathon champion, and Clemence Calvin, the 10,000m silver medallist from those European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
Belgrade was the setting for Duarte’s greatest moment, when she took the lead on the penultimate lap and ran away to triumph in 26:34 from Great Britain’s Gemma Steel (26:39), Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix (26:41) and defending champion, Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack in 26:45.
Who can forget the look on Daunay’s face as she triumphed on the streets of Zurich in 2014, her powerful, delighted expression showing just what it meant to become European champion.
She proved then how she can master a tough, looped course, and while the surface underfoot might be a bit softer on 13 December, Daunay has the tenacity that is needed to make her mark.
France's senior men’s squad is proof of the progression athletes make because it is spearheaded by Morhad Amdouni, 27, and Florian Carvalho, 26.
In 2007 in Toro, Amdouni beat Carvalho by three seconds to take the junior title as the pair shared the podium twice as France also won team gold.
A year later, Carvalho won the junior event outright, 12 months after that he was part of the gold-medal French team in the under-23s, where he had finished fourth, before taking the individual victory in this age group in 2011 having been runner-up in 2010.
It is the 22nd staging of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and as France host the competition for the first time, they will be looking for their first winner of the men’s senior title. Duarte became their third woman to take the senior gold, following Joalsiae Llado in 1997 and Yamna Belkacem in 2001.
France have so far named 35 runners out of a possible 36, with the final spot, in the men’s senior team, to be announced after Sunday’s Cross de L’Acier, a European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meeting, in Leffrinckoucke:
Men's Senior (one spot left)
Morhad Amdouni, Timothee Bommier, Florian Carvalho, Simon Denissel, Yohan Durand, Hassan Chahdi
Christine Bardelle, Clemence Calvin, Christelle Daunay, Sophie Duarte, Aurore Guerin, Liv Westphal
Francois Barrer, Djilali Bedrani, Felix Bour, Alexis Miellet, Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse, Alexandre Saddedine
Marie Bouchard, Maeva Danois, Jacqueline Gandar, Johanna Geyer Carles, Cecile Jarousseau, Emma Oudiou
Mohamed-amine El Bouajaji, Jimmy Gressier, Maxime Hueber Moosbrugger, Baptiste Mischler, Fabien Palcau, Nicolas Witz
Cassandre Beaugrand, Elise Decorte, Cecile Lejeune, Alexa Lemitre, Lucie Picard, Elsa Racasan