Turkey’s Arslan is Europe’s best mountain runner for the fourth time

 

Ahmet Arslan
Ahmet Arslan won the European Mountain
Running Championships for the fourth time
in a row on Sunday in Sapareva Banya.

Turkey’s Ahmet Arslan proved that he’s currently the continent’s best mountain runner, and perhaps the best ever, when he took his fourth successive European Mountain Running Championships gold medal in the Bulgarian mountain resort of Sapareva Banya on Sunday.

In similar fashion to previous years, Arslan shot to the front almost immediately and had a six seconds lead after the first of three steep climbs in the 12.2km.

He then turned the screw on the second climb, extending his lead over Italy’s Martin Dematteis to 21 seconds by the halfway point in the race.

Up the third climb, victory was almost assured and he had the luxury of being able to relax slightly on the final descent and the kilometre run to the finish line.

Arslan eventually stopped the clock in 46.14, coming home 26 seconds ahead Dematteis, who had an unchallenged run for the silver medal from 4km into the race, despite the discomforting sight of seeing Aislan disappear into the distance.

If the Italian’s name seems familiar, his twin brother Bernard finished second to Aislan two years ago, but on this occasion the latter had to settle for sixth place.

The bronze medal went to another Italian, the 2004 winner Marco De Gaspari, who was also second in 2007 and last year.

Nevertheless, Italy convincingly retained the men’s team title with just 10 points, an honour they have won ever since the championships took their place on European Athletics’ programme of events in 2002.

France, led home by fourth-placed Julian Rancon who won the Grand Ballon 2010 race in France two months ago, the first of this year’s World Mountain Running Association Grand Prix events, got the silver medals with 30 points while Spain were third with 38 points.

The senior women’s race over 9km also fulfilled pre-race predictions with France’s Marie Laure Dumergues, who had shown her form when she won the Grand Ballon race by a big margin, winning in 39:13.

It was a huge step forward for Dumergues who finished back in 23rd place 12 months ago.

Italy’s Valentina Belotti had to settle for second place for the second year in succession, finishing 16 seconds behind her French rival after a thrilling race in which Dumergues built up a 10-second lead at the halfway point, after the first of two descents, only for Belotti to close the gap steadily up the second climb and reduce the gap to just two seconds.

It looked as though Belotti was going to overhaul Dumergues but the latter proved to still have something in reserve and pulled away for a second time.

Marie Laure Dumergues
Marie Laure Dumergues of France claimed first
place in the women's 9km race at the
European Mountain Running Championships. 

Russia’s Elena Nagovitsyna was third in 39:44, overtaking Italy’s Antonella Confortolla about a kilometre from the line.

However, Belotti and Confortolla, with third scorer Cristina Scolari in sixth place, helpe