Sifan Hassan won gold for the Netherlands on Sunday in the women’s under-23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade. Her run also helped her team to bronze to add to her great day.
But there was equal celebration too for the host nation as Amela Terzic added to Serbia’s great run of athletics success by finishing second, holding off the challenge of Great Britain’s Charlotte Purdue.
But Britain had by far the strongest squad as Purdue was one of five runners in the top eight, performances which led them to the team gold ahead of Russia and the Netherlands.
The home crowd was so much hoping that Terzic would go all the way to glory.
She had won the junior race in Budapest 12 months ago and was making her debut in this age group.
The pressure was well on for Terzic who was never out of the leading group but in the end Hassan had too much as she won in 19:40 from the Serbian in 19:46 with Purdue, the 2010 junior champion, third in 19:49.
Hassan said: “It was not easy with Amela breathing down my neck until the final metres.”
Terzic praised the home fans which helped her hold on to second place in those final stages. “I could hear the cheers coming from the crowd and I thank them for coming to give me support,” she said. “I would not have been able to finish second without them.”
Britain’s strength in depth brought them the team gold as Kate Avery was fourth in 19:56, Lily Partridge was fifth in 20:10 and Rhona Auckland was seventh in 20:25. The first four count for points scoring purposes, but to add to their dominance, Laura Weightman was eighth in 20:28.
As a team, they were way ahead, winning with 19 points from Russia with 54 who were led by Gulshat Fazlitdiniova, with Hassan spearheading the Netherlands’ to third with 70 points.
Germany’s Corinna Harrer had led from the opening stages of the 6km race but it was not long before Purdue took over.
She has been off the scene for a year due to injury but was savouring this final appearance in the under-23 race at these SPAR European Cross Country Championships.
At the 1.5km stage, Purdue was first in 4:52 in a pack of 12 which quickly became the leading three who went on to the final say.
Purdue stayed at the front but just past the 4.5km stage as Hassan asserted her authority as Terzic slipped back to third.
Hassan created a gap to Purdue but Terzic, inspired by the noise of the crowd, dug deep too find one last burst of energy which moved her into second.
Not enough to catch Hassan, but enough for a smile on the podium and delight for the watching nation.