Portugal’s Jessica Augusto got the biggest cheers of the afternoon and gave everyone a day to remember when she won the senior women’s gold medal on home soil at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Albufeira on Sunday.
In a thrilling demonstration of authoritative running from gun-to-tape, she become the first former junior champion, having won a decade ago in 2000, to taste victory in the senior women’s race at the Championships.
She was also the first Portuguese senior runner to win an individual title at the Championships since Paolo Guerra won the last of his four men’s gold medals in 2000.
In a question-and-answer session with the Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, Augusto, she reflected on the race and her feelings afterwards.
Q: How were the celebrations after you won the gold medal?
A: It was with my teammates and other people who were part of the Portuguese squad there.
Q: Did you receive any particular message that had touched you?
A: Not really. However, I have received many SMS messages and plenty of others were written to me on Facebook, messages from people who admire me.
Q: What now are your recollections of the race in Albufeira?
A: I have not really had time to digest the victory very well. I'm still living a dream. I’ve looked at what was written in the newspapers and still get emotional.
Q: Did you consider that the gold medal was something beyond your reach before the race?
A: No. Deep down I knew I had a chance and that I was a candidate for the gold. I took control of the race from the start because I wanted to win, and I went and got the title! I know that I was a favorite with a lot of athletes there and my rivals knew in advance that, if all went well, I could be a winner.
Q: Now it’s all over were there any surprises or disappointments?
A: I still have not had the opportunity to look down the results in detail. I know that all the Portuguese runners performed well. The surprise was the second place finisher from Turkey (Binnaz Uslu). The disappointment, perhaps, was the Dutch runner Herzog, the bronze medallist in 2009, who dropped out.
Q: You dedicated your gold medal to all the Portuguese runners but especially Inês Monteiro (1999 SPAR European Cross Country Championships junior champion and 2008 senior women’s bronze medallist). Why?
A: She is my training partner and I knew that if she were there, she would have also been on the podium. I have great admiration for Inês, she’s always a fighter.
Q: A decade had passed between your junior and the senior titles. Why was it such a long time?
A: It isn’t really. There are people that try their entire careers but fail to win any medal. This medal comes at the right time and before this win, I won more medals but of different colours.
Q: What are your plans now for 2011?
A: There are several but I’ll be talking about them soon. For the moment, I’ll be doing a cross country race in Brussels next Sunday (the IRIS Lotto Cross Cup race, an IAAF Cross Country Permit Meeting) and then finish the year running the Sao Silvestre de Lisboa 10km road race (on December 26) and then the New Year’s Eve 10km road race in Madrid.