Steel has an eye for gold in Samokov

Steel has an eye for gold in Samokov
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Gemma Steel and Emilia Gorecka are fine-tuning their preparations for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships held in Samokov on 14 December.

Gemma Steel is determined to do all she can to complete a full set of medals at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov.

Steel, who won silver 12 months ago in Belgrade and bronze two years before that in Velenje, triumphed at the British Athletics Cross Challenge in Liverpool on Saturday to confirm her place in the team for the championships on 14 December.

The event doubled up as the official trials and as Steel won in 26:58, in second was six-times European junior cross country gold medallist Emelia Gorecka, on her debut in a senior cross country race, in 27:09.

Steel’s win puts her in a good place as she counts down the days to the last major athletics competition of 2014.

“I am definitely going for gold in Bulgaria this year,” said Steel, speaking to British Athletics. “I have silver and bronze so it would be nice to get the gold. It has always been a dream of mine to stand on the top of that podium.”

Steel, 29, has been one of the most consistent senior performers at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships over the past four years, with two team golds from 2011 and 2013 and a team silver from 2010 to go with her individual honours.

In Belgrade she was beaten by five seconds over the 8km course by France’s Sophie Duarte who won in 26:34 and their re-match in Bulgaria has the makings of being one of the races of the day.

Gorecka, 20, has an outstanding list of junior honours at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and now she is looking in good form as she progresses to the next level.

She won the individual junior gold in 2011 and last year to go with four successive team titles from 2010 and this run in Liverpool will have caught the eye among her rivals across Europe.

The senior men’s race in Liverpool saw a Scottish one-two as Callum Hawkins won by just two seconds from Andrew Butchart in 29:26.

“I’m really please, that’s been my focus since the Commonwealth Games and hopefully I can sneak a medal in Bulgaria. I’ve got the engine to do it,” said Hawkins.