It has been a breakthrough year for Dutchman Mike Foppen and now he has the chance to round it off in style at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon.
Foppen, who celebrates his 23rd birthday on Friday, confirmed his place on the Dutch team for Lisbon with a brilliant win on Sunday (24) at the Warandeloop, a European Athletics Cross Country Permit event, which returned to its traditional venue near Tilburg University.
Foppen was 20th in the U23 race at last year’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships which were staged in Tilburg albeit at a different venue at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park but this time he showed superb strength to triumph in a thrilling finish over 10km.
Foppen won in 30:01, holding off the challenge of Authorised Neutral Athlete and last year’s runner-up Rinas Akhmadeev (30:02) and Italy’s Nekagenet Crippa (30:04), the older brother of Yemaneberhan, for one of the best wins of his career. Former winner Napoleon Solomon from Sweden was fourth in 30:05.
The national 5000m champion from the summer, Foppen then ran for Europe at The Match in Minsk and he will now head to Lisbon on 8 December ready to make another big impression. "I am a real track athlete, but the cross is important to me. That is how I lay the foundation for the track season," said Foppen, who has just returned from a training stint in South Africa and harbours aspirations of qualifying for the 5000m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Denmark’s Anna Emilie Moller made it a happy Tilburg return as she won the senior women’s 8km race in brilliant fashion.
Eleven months on from taking the U23 title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships title, the Danish star won in 26:48 by a thumping margin. Georgia’s Valeriya Zhandarova was over half-a-minute behind in second in 27:19 and Sweden’s Samrawit Mengsteab third in 27:35.
Not 23 until next July, Moller would certainly give the senior stars a run for their money in Lisbon but she will be the clear favourite for U23 glory again in just under two weeks. Not only is Moller the reigning European U23 cross country champion, she was also the top European finisher in the senior race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March.
Switzerland’s Delia Sclabas missed out on gold by a second in the women’s U20 race in Tilburg and the European U20 1500m champion will be determined to make that small step up the podium this time in her farewell appearance in the junior ranks.
Her plans are on course as she won the women’s U20 4.3km in blistering style, with victory by 78 seconds in 14:10 from Amina Maatoug from the Netherlands in 15:18.
Gressier competitive against East African contingent in Leffrinckoucke
France's Jimmy Gressier will be chasing a hat-trick of titles in the U23 race in Lisbon and finishing fifth at the Cross de l’Acier, a European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meeting, in Leffrinckoucke on Sunday (24) was a run full of encouragement for that triple attempt.
In a high class men's field, Gressier covered the 9.53km distance in 30:48 in a race won by Ethiopian Aregawi Berihu, the 2018 world U20 10,000m bronze medallist, in 30:04.
Gressier was by far the leading Frenchman in Leffrinckoucke, holding his own against the leading East African distance runners with Uganda’s Oscar Chelimo in (30:06) and Kenya’s Justus Soget (30:17) second and third respectively.
Liv Westphal (25:26) and former European cross country champion Sophie Duarte (26:19) were eighth and ninth respectively in the senior women’s 6.97km which was won by Ethiopia’s Aberash Belay in 25:01.