One of the most consistent performers in the history of the event, Portugal’s Sara Moreira, will chase a hat-trick of titles at the 18th European Cup 10,000m in Skopje on Saturday evening.
Moreira won gold in Oslo in 2011 and Bilbao in 2012 and is part of a six-strong Portuguese squad who are among the favourites for a team title that they have won on nine occasions, the last being in Marseille in 2010.
In Moreira, a silver and bronze medallist at the distance at the European Athletics Championships, they have a woman of outstanding experience and endurance.
Equally, she is one of the sport’s most versatile athletes, proving she can adapt to any condition during her superb career where she won the SPAR European Cross Country Championships three years in a row - 2008, 2009 and 2010 - and in Gothenburg in 2013, triumphed in the 3000m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships.
Moreira is joined by Jessica Augusto, Carla Salome Rocha, Sara Ribeiro, Marisa Barros and Claudia Pereira.
Spain’s women took the team title 12 months ago in Pravets and their quartet looking to keep hold of the crown are Gema Barrachina, Lidia Rodriguez, Paula Gonzalez and Alba Garcia.
Two years on from winning gold in Bilbao, in the best summer of his career, Turkey’s Polat Kemboi Arikan is the favourite in the men’s race.
Arikan triumphed in 27:56.28 in 2012 then progressed to win gold at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki just a few weeks later.
No doubt he will looking for a similar double this summer and will pose a major threat in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia where he is one of six Turkish athletes.
They include Halil Akkas, the runner-up from last year’s race, along with Mehmet Akkoyun, Mert Girmalegese, Ali Kaya and Kemal Koyuncu.
Akkas, in 28:31.82, missed out on gold by just 0.07 as Spain’s Sergio Sanchez won in Pravets but the Turkish runner, along with his own teammate Arikan, will be aware of the threat of Italy’s Ahmed El Mazoury who was third last year in 28:36.40.
El Mazoury did end that night with one gold, though, as he led the Italians to the team title.
Gian Marco Buttazzo, Manuel Cominotto, Paolo Zanatta and Jamel Chatbi, El Mazoury make up the rest of the Italian team aiming to win it again.
It was only the second time in the 17 years of the competition that Italy had taken the team event, with Spain’s eight successes topping the men's list.
Manuel Angel Penas, Roberto Alaiz, Mohamed Marhum and Alejandro Fernandez are the four Spanish runners looking to make it nine this time.
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