Senior men - Arikan shows he can with gold

Senior men - Arikan shows he can with gold
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Another tight one in the men's senior race as it came down to a sprint finish between Polat Kemboi Arikan and Ali Kaya of Turkey, with Spain's Alemayehu Bezabeh not far behind.

A men's race that became a three-way chase for gold for the majority of the 10km saw Turkey's Polat Kemboi Arikan triumph - 12 months after winning silver.

Arikan, 24, had too much speed in the home straight to hold off the challenge from his teammate Alia Kaya, the junior champion last year who justified his immediate move up to the senior level in what has been a fantastic spell for him.

As in the women's senior race at this SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov, there was virtually nothing between the first two with them sharing the same time of 32:19 with Spain's defending champion Alemayehu Bezabeh in third in 32:30. After that there was a 29-second gap to France’s Florian Carvalho.

But the team event was close, with Turkey winning by just three points with 33 from Spain and Italy third with 59.

Arikan was delighted with gold and praised the part that Kaya played.

"It was very tough race and I am so happy to be champion," said Arikan. "I want to thank to my teammate Ali Kaya who forced me to keep the winning tempo."

Once more Arikan is back on top of the podium as he showed his athletic versatility.

In 2012, he won gold in the 10,000m and bronze in the 5000m at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki and now he has his first senior cross country crown.

Bezabeh beat him by 11 seconds in Belgrade a year ago and it was impossible to separate the three leaders as they dominated the eight, long, 1100m laps of this course which was becoming more treacherous with mud as the event moved into the early afternoon.

But Arikan and Kaya took turns to lead, though at the lap checkpoints there was no difference between them as each looked to outwit the other.

Kaya, 20, will surely go on to win this senior title such is his progress. He is the European Athletics Junior champion at 5000m and 10,000m and in Zurich in August, he was third in the 10,000m won by Mo Farah at the European Athletics Championships.

Running against more experienced, let alone older, athletes does not deter him but Arikan's final kick was just too much for him this time.

But Kaya still leaves Bulgaria with a gold after Turkey's narrow team success with the top two joined by Cihat Ulus, who was 11th in 33:22, and Ramazan Ozdemir, who was 19th in 33:37.

Spain were so close to the title, though, as along with Bezabeh, Mohamed Marhum was sixth in 33:04, Antonio Abadia was 12th in 33:24 and Roberto Alaiz was 15th in 33:26.