Tsenov has a golden chance in Samokov

Tsenov has a golden chance in Samokov
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Bulgaria's Mitko Tsenov celebrates his victory in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2013 European Athletics U23 Championships in Tampere.

It is a week to go until the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov and the host nation have a runner in their team who made national history.

And now he will be among the favourites for a gold medal.

Back in 2012, when this event was staged in Budapest, Mitko Tsenov finished second in the boy’s junior race to become the first Bulgarian to win a medal at the championships.

Then last year in Belgrade, having moved up to the under-23 race, Tsenov, now 21, did exactly the same with another silver.

As the championships beckon in Samokov on 14 December, Tsenov will provide the home crowd with their biggest hope of home success as he chases a hat-trick of medals.

Two years ago, over the 6km distance, Tsenov missed out by just four seconds on gold when he was beaten by Poland’s Szymon Kulka who triumphed in 18:43.

Twelve months later, there was a gap of five seconds over 8km as Tsenov ran 24:07 for second behind Belgium’s Pieter-Jan Hannes.

With Hannes not defending his title, Tsenov might be the favourite in a year where he finished ninth in the 3000m steeplechase at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

Tsenov is part of a Bulgarian squad that have athletes in all six races.

Yolo Nikolov will run in the men’s senior event, Silvia Danekova and Yana Georgieva take part in the women’s senior and Militsa Mircheva in the women’s under-23s.

In the junior races, Bulgaria have complete teams with the boys squad of Ivo Balabanov, Georgi Gergov, Aleks Vasilev and Aleksandr Yotovski and girls of Dilyana Minkina, Ivana Adzhova, Veselina Alinska and Khristana Braykova.