Moller poised to challenge the favourites in Chia

Moller poised to challenge the favourites in Chia
European Athletics

Germany are the favourites to defend their women's under-20 title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Chia on Sunday.

The top three from Hyères 12 months ago return for the under-20 women's race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Chia on Sunday but the challengers for the title go deeper than that.

Konstanze Klosterhalfen might be the favourite, as she looks to retain her crown, having triumphed by four seconds in 13:12 in 2015 from Great Britain's Harriet Knowles-Jones and her German teammate Alina Reh, but the progress of Denmark's Anna-Emilie Moller has been equally impressive this year.

Moller, who like Klosterhalfen and Reh is 19 – Knowles-Jones is 18 – knows all about success at this level having finished on the podium twice at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Eskilstuna in 2015.

But it was her performance at the Olympic Games in Rio in August which made the record books, even though she missed out on a place in the final of the 3000m steeplechase.

Her time, as she was sixth in her heat, was 9:32.68, a European under-20 record and a national record.

It was another step in the right direction for one of Denmark's leading athletes, who in Eskilstuna won silver behind Reh in the 5000m and took bronze in the 3000m as the German triumphed.

Germany won team gold in Hyères from Britain and Denmark and while Knowles-Jones will look to be among the medalists again, a big threat will come from her teammate Victoria Weir.

At the official British trials in Liverpool at the end of last month, Weir caused a surprise by narrowly beating Knowles-Jones and was left stunned by her victory.

“I just can’t believe it, I’ve never been near Harriet before so to win the race is unbelievable," said Weir, 18, speaking to British Athletics.

The women's under-20 race is the first event of these SPAR European Cross Country Championships and for Weir, it will be her British debut. "To earn a spot on the team for the championships is unbelievable too," she said. "I’ve never represented my country before so this is quite something.”

Turkey have a strong team, with Emine Akbingol, 16, one of the youngest runners in the race, while hosts Italy have declared eight athletes on the official entry lists as they look to make their mark.

Among them are the Zenoni sisters – Federica is 19 and Marta is 17 – while the big squads from France and Spain cannot be ruled out either.

Women’s Under-20 race starts at 10:15am (local time)

LAST YEAR’S RESULT

1.     Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER) 13:12

2.     Harriet Knowles-Jones (GBR) 13:16

3.     Alina Reh (GER) 13:20

TEAM

1.     Germany  20 points

2.     Great Britain  40

3.     Denmark  62