Senior women's preview

Senior Women's Preview
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Portugal's Sara Moreira (centre) and Ireland's Fionnuala Britton (right) could both very well be standing on the podium together once again at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov on Sunday.

Moreira cuts her mileage and hopes for more glory

Six weeks after not only running the first marathon of her career, but finishing third no less in New York, Sara Moreira will take her place on the start line in Samokov on Sunday ready to chase her fourth team gold medal this time over 7.9km at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

The Portuguese is a remarkable athlete, as her list of honours proves. Outside of the grass and hilly terrains that greet runners at this time of year - let alone the streets of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs - Moreira, 29, will also probably have half an eye on defending her 3000m crown at the European Athletics Championships in Prague in March after her success in 8:58.50 in Göteborg last year.

When Moreira, who has topped the podium at this SPAR European Cross Country Championships with her teammates in 2008, 2009, 2010, won the biggest individual title of her career in Sweden 21 months ago, there was as much celebration from the woman in third.

Then Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton had just won her first track medal, to show the full range of her own running skills having also triumphed with three golds at these cross country championships.

Two of Britton’s titles were as senior women’s champion, in Velenje in 2011 and Budapest in 2012 - where she also helped Ireland lift the team crown - and she will return on Sunday to bid for more success.

Moreira and Britton are just two women in a high-class field which welcomes back the defending champion, Sophie Duarte, of France, who won in 26:34 in Belgrade, and Great Britain’s Gemma Steel, who was second 12 months ago, five seconds adrift.

But the fact that just 11 seconds covered the first four in that race - Portugal’s Dulce Felix (who is not here this time) was third in 26:41 with Britton fourth in 26:45 - shows how small a margin there is on the senior women’s European cross country stage.

Infact, six of the top eight from 2013 in Belgrade are returning with Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovel, who was fifth last year in 26:52, Almensch Belete, of Belgium, who was sixth in 27:00, and Italy’s Veronica Inglese, who was eighth in 27:12.

Twenty-four nations have representatives in this race with Silvia Danekova and Yana Georgieva running for Bulgaria while Spain’s Diana Martin, who was third in the 3000m steeplechase at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August, looks to follow the Britton example in reverse, by now seeking a medal on the terrain after European track success.

Great Britain’s women won the team gold in Belgrade and they have entered eight runners, with Steel joined by, among others, Kate Avery, Eilish McColgan and Steph Twell, now 25, who was the junior champion three times, in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

START TIME: 12:06 am CET.