The first SPAR European Cross Country Championships of the decade will take place in the Irish capital of Dublin on 13 December.
This will be the third major cross country fixture to be held in Dublin this century after the 2002 World Cross Country Championships - when Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele won his first of six short and long course doubles and Paula Radcliffe retained her senior women’s title - followed by the SPAR European Cross Country Championships seven years later in 2009.
There will be a new setting for this year’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships with the event taking place in the grounds of the National Sports Centre Campus in Blanchardstown, situated in the north-west of the city.
Buoyed by a sizeable travelling contingent of Irish support, Ireland amassed their best ever collective showing at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon in December. The Irish team came away with four medals in total, including individual medals courtesy of Efrem Gidey on his international debut in the men’s U20 race and Stephanie Cotter in the women’s U23 race.
Led by Fionnuala McCormack who finished fourth individually in her record-breaking 16th appearance at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, Ireland also came away with team silver in the senior women’s race as well as team silver in the women’s U23 race.
The theme of Lisbon was continuity with all four age-group winners - Italy’s Nadia Battocletti and Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the U20 races and France’s Jimmy Gressier and Denmark’s Anna Emilie Moller in the U23 races - all retaining their titles but we will be guaranteed at least four different champions in Dublin as this quartet will graduate into the U23 and senior ranks respectively in December.
In the senior races, Turkey’s Yasemin Can became the first female athlete to win four successive senior titles while there was a mild surprise in the senior men’s race with Robel Fsiha winning only Sweden’s second gold medal in SPAR European Cross Country Championships history.
Ireland has won five gold medals in championship history including three individual titles in the senior women’s race. Catherina McKiernan won the inaugural title in Alnwick in 1994 before McCormack won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Ireland also won senior women’s team gold in 2012 as well as the men’s U23 team title in 2010.