Kaya ready to show age is just a number
It is not often that an athlete wins the junior race one year at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and then 12 months later is seeking gold again - in the senior event.
But that is what Turkey’s Ali Kaya will be out to achieve in Samokov on Sunday.
Stepping up to the senior stage will not be easy, though Kaya who is just 20, has already shown his maturity during the summer when he won bronze behind champion Mo Farah in the 10,000m at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
Kaya gave long distance legend Farah quite a scare in the home straight.
Making the top there again would be another brilliant achievement for an athlete who looks set to be around a long time.
One factor is for sure - he is part of a strong Turkish lineup that includes Polat Kemboi Arikan, the 2010 European 10,000m champion who was second last year at these championships in Belgrade.
Arikan was beaten by 21 seconds as Spain’s Alemayehu Bezabeh was the dominant force and he is back to defend his title, while the Spanish squad will want to keep hold of their team crown which they won with 31 points from Belgium with 49 and Great Britain with 60.
It was a strong team performance from Spain which saw Mohamed Marhum finish sixth in 29:46 and Ivan Fernandez finish 11th in 29:58 and they are both in Samokov looking for gold again in the final race of the day.
Infact, the men’s race has a real Belgrade feel about it as leading Frenchman Hassan Chahdi, who was fifth in 29:40 in 2013, is back too.
The top three in Ireland’s Inter County Cross Championships, Paul Pollock, Mark Hanrahan and Mick Clohisey, will spearhead their bid to improve upon the team finishing sixth in Belgrade while the Czech Republic include Jakub Holusa, the 2007 European Junior 3000m steeplechase champion, who has a consistent record at major international events.
Andrew Butchart, who was second in the trials, heads the British team and he is joined by Luke Caldwell who finished fifth in the under-23 race in Belgrade but topped the podium as Britain’s men won the team prize.
Hosts Bulgaria are represented by Yolo Nikolov, while Italy could make a challenge with Ahmed El Mazoury and Stefano La Rosa, proven distance champions on the European Champions Clubs Cup scene, in their squad.
DISTANCE: 9.9km (two short laps, and six long laps).
START TIME: 12:58 pm CET.