Age has not deterred German middle distance runner Konstanze Klosterhalfen this year and the latest step in her brilliant progression arrives in Samorin on Sunday.
Klosterhalfen has made the top of the podium at the last two editions of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in the U20 race but as she has proved in 2017, the transition to the next level has hardly proved troublesome.
In March, Klosterhalfen won silver behind Great Britain’s Laura Muir in the 1500m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade and in the summer, she won gold over the same distance at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz.
Then came perhaps the biggest smile of all when she broke Irina Mikitenko’s national 3000m record with 8:29.89 - the first national senior record of her career - and beat Kenya’s newly crowned world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri in the process at the IAAF Diamond League in Birmingham.
If Klosterhalfen becomes the one to catch over the 6.6km course at the weekend, challenges will come from all different areas including big rivals in her own team
The German squad includes the experience of Anna Gehring, who won U23 silver in Chia twelve months ago, and Alina Reh, who has set German U23 records over 10km and the half marathon this autumn before carrying that form onto the cross country with a victory over Klosterhalfen in Darmstadt less than a fortnight ago.
But Reh has not beaten her at this major cross country event, finishing second and fourth respectively over the past two years as Klosterhalfen took gold.
Jessica Judd helped Britain to the team title last year and she returns after finishing second in the senior women’s race at the trials. Turkey look strong, too, with a squad including former U20 champion Emine Hatun Tuna while the host nation is represented by Lucia Janeckova and Veronika Zrastakova.
Sport has a habit of turning adversity into triumph and that could be the case if Spain’s Celia Anton wins a medal.
Anton has been away from the international scene for over a year with injury but she is back in fine form, as she proved by winning the U23 race at last month’s Cross Internacional de la Constitucion in Alcobendas.
The men’s U23 race will see the clock turned back to some of the great races from the European Athletics U23 Championships this summer.
The first gold medal of those championships came in the men’s 10,000m as Spain’s Carlos Mayo finally put himself on top of the podium with a brilliant surge in the last 250m to beat Germany’s Amanal Petros. On Sunday, the rivalry will resume and can Mayo repeat his sensational Bydgoszcz finish?
He called his glory then “a dream” and that victory will have given him the confidence to go all the way in a championships where he has been so close in the past. Mayo has won silver medals at the last three editions, once in the U20 race and twice in this U23 event.
As Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli won in Chia twelve months ago, Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa came away with an individual bronze medal. He returns with a fantastic record at these championships having won the U20 race on two occasions.
He was among the stars of Bydgoszcz after one of the best races of the week, winning 5000m gold by a mere 0.43 from Simon Debognies. Just to add further intrigue to this Sunday’s event, the Belgian will lead the way for his nation hoping to turn the tables on the Italians, whose team also includes Yohanes Chiappinelli, who won the 3000m steeplechase at the European U23 Championships.