Britton to defend her title in Belfast; Lebid looks for glory in Rovereto | 11.01.2013
|Fionnuala Britton of Ireland on her way to winning the senior
women's title during the 19th SPAR European Cross
Country Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on 9
December. (Photo by Getty Images)
Elgoibar in Spain, Rovereto in Italy and Belfast in Northern Ireland are the venues for the competition and it is the latter where Fionnuala Britton will look to make another mark.
Ireland's Fionnuala Britton is having an outstanding winter, following her victory at last month's SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Budapest with an equally-impressive triumph at the BUPA Great Edinburgh Cross Country.
She will look for more success at the 36th Antrim IAAF International Cross Country which takes place in conjunction with the Northern Ireland & Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships.
It is held at the glorious setting of the Greenmount Campus at Antrim's College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise - and it is no surprise that Britton is here once more as the star pupil.
Britton is again defending a title and she is also looking ahead to the summer.
Sonia O'Sullivan, the Olympic 5000m silver medallist and triple European champion, is Ireland's greatest track and field athlete, and Britton now wants to make her own mark when the summer arrives.
She has failed to repeat her cross country glories on the track but as she said: "Even though I am known as a cross country specialist, track and field has not really worked yet. I really enjoy cross country but the track is where it's at."
Britton will face tough opposition, with Jessica Coulson, the European Under-23 champion over the 6km from Budapest, leading the challenge.
She is joined by fellow British teammates Louise Damen and Freya Ross while Kenyans Eunice Kales and Magdalene Masai will be a threat.
In the men's race, top British internationals Andy Vernon and Frank Tickner will face a group of classy Kenyans including Bernard Rotich and Joseph Birech.
Twenty-four hours later, the action swings to Italy and once more an event that is being held for the 36th time.
The European Athletics' permit meeting takes places in Rovereto at the Vallagarina Cross Country as Ethiopia's Edris Muktar, the world junior 5000m champion from Barcelona last summer, looks for a second week of European glory.
He runs in the men´s 9km, seven days after his victory in Campaccio.
But he will given a tough race as the Ukraine's master, Sergiy Lebid, the champion in 2003 and 2004, looks to repeat that success.
Stefano La Rosa, Italy's national 5000m champion, will lead the home challenge while the women's race of 6.44km will feature a clash of two of Europe's most consistent athletes at the moment.
Silvia Weissteiner, Italy's reigning Cross Country champion, will be looking for home success having finished fourth in the Boclassic and sixth at the Campaccio as she meets Livia Toth, Hungary's Cross country champion.
In Elgoibar, Spain, on Sunday, it is the 70th staging of the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza and the field is of the highest order.
But if there is to be a home win, it will need a superb performance from Ayad Lamdassem, the double European cross country silver medallist.
The reason is Kenyan Leonard Komon, world-record holder of the 10km and 15km road races, and favourite for this race over 10km.
Spain's Diana Martin and Adrienne Herzog, of the Netherlands, will lead the European challenge in the women's 6km where Hiwot Ayalew, of Ethiopia, could be tough to beat.