Minsk prepares for a Cup classic

Minsk prepares for a Cup classic
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The European 10,000m Cup is one of the feel-good events on the athletics calendar – because the competitive nature shows the outdoor season is well and truly underway.

On 10 June, Minsk will host the action which regularly attracts many of Europe’s leading distance runners.

And when they take to the start line in the Belarusian capital, it will be 20 years since the event was launched – then known as the European 10,000m Challenge.

Barakaldo, in Spain, and Lisbon, in Portugal, took turns in staging the competition during the first five years of its existence before the competition started being staged all across Europe, and while it is early in the summer, its reputation has made it one of the prestige titles to win.

Last June, there was home delight in Mersin as Turkey’s Esma Aydemir triumphed in the women’s race and Italy’s Daniele Meucci took the men’s title.

As in so many years, victory proved a glorious stepping stone for the weeks ahead.

Meucci went on to win bronze a month later in Amsterdam in the first half marathon at the European Athletics Championships after both Aydemir and him had joined an illustrious list of European 10,000m Cup champions.

The inaugural men’s winner in 1997 was Germany’s Dieter Baumann, the 1992 Olympic 5000m champion, while in 2010, Great Britain’s Mo Farah triumphed in Marseille, one of the first major 10,000m wins of his amazing career. And Turkey’s Polat Arikan, who retained his European 10,000m crown in Amsterdam, is a triple champion with glory in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Turkey’s Polat Arikan won his third European 10,000m Cup title in Chia-Pula in 2015.
Turkey’s Polat Arikan won his third European 10,000m Cup title in Chia-Pula in 2015.

The leading women over the 20 previous races include Britain’s Paula Radcliffe (winner in 1999 and 2001) and Portugal’s Sara Moreira (2011 and 2012), the women’s half marathon gold medallist in Amsterdam.

Meucci will be looking to defend two titles in Minsk because along with his individual success, he led Italy to the team gold in Mersin as Britain’s women lifted their team crown.

Each nation’s leading three athletes contribute to the total score and while Italy (1:25:39.81) were clear winners from Spain (1:27:00.23), the Britain’s women's glory was much closer with their time of 1:42:45.91 just ahead of Turkey (1:42:50.57) on a night when Aydemir ran a superb last lap as she took the individual title in a personal best time (33:33.38) from Italy’s Rosaria Console (33:44.11).

As the Cup becomes one of the biggest European athletics events to be held in Minsk, it might not be the only time the sport sees the winners making an impression in 2017.

Highlights from last year's European 10,000m Cup in Mersin: