Ennaoui fast tracks her way to Chia gold

Ennaoui fast tracks her way to Chia gold
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Sofia Ennaoui became the first Polish woman to win a gold medal at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Chia on 11 December.

When you have the speed of a middle-distance runner and you find yourself close to the finish line in a major cross country event, there can be no greater asset.

Just as Sofia Ennaoui proved this morning in Chia as she became the first Polish woman to win a gold medal at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

Timing her performance to perfection, Ennaoui, 21, won the women's under-23 title in 19:21 from Germany's Anna Gehring in 19:24 and Great Britain's Alice Wright in 19:42.

It was a strong performance from Britain's women who successfully defended their team gold, with Wright just ahead of Charlotte Taylor in fourth (19:44), backed up by Rebecca Murray in seventh (19:52) and Jessica Judd in 12th (20:06).

That brought 26 points for victory from Germany with 33 and delight for the host nation as Italy took team bronze with 67, with Christine Santi their leading athlete in 10th (19:59).

Ennaoui really is so versatile, and proving such a success on their major European stage.

In 2013, she won 1500m silver at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Rieti and then in Tallinn last year, she won the same medal at the European U23 Championships.

That was a base for her European seventh in Amsterdam in the summer ahead of being 10th in the Olympic final in Rio, all amazing experiences which would have combined in those final strides today when she used the speed from the middle-distances to secure the win over 6.15km.

And as she spoke after her triumph, she reflected on that key element.

“When I saw this track for the first time I said 'okay, it will be pretty easy',” said Ennaoui .

“Even yesterday, when I ran 6km in my training here, I felt like that. But it was not as easy at all.

“My team was cheering me a lot and before the race, they told me I could win so, I felt self-confident on the start. That all-amazing moment came in the last 200 metres where I knew I had the power to speed up as an experienced track and field runner. I am used to the fast finishes.

“This is a historical medal for us and it also gives me power before the indoor season.”

Belgrade then beckons for Ennaoui in March where she will now become one of the stars of the European Athletics Indoor Championships as she chases yet another medal.

Gehring was delighted with her two silvers and said: “My aim was the top 10, so I am very surprised with my result. I struggled with some injuries in the past so I am glad this cross country season has worked out very well for me. The race was open and I am glad I had enough power to get on the podium.

“My next big target is the European U23 championships in the summer where I hope to fight for a medal too.”

Wright showered praise on her teammates after her individual bronze and team gold.

“It is a great end to the season, said Wright.

“It has made my Christmas. I am so proud of our result, such a team effort. To represent my country is always a big honour, so I had to spare some energy for this event. I compete also in the United States and it was a long season.”