European 10km and half marathon record-holder Julien Wanders from Switzerland will compete at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships for the first time since he was a junior in Lisbon on 8 December.
Wanders’ last appearance at the European Cross Country Championships came back in 2015 when he finished 12th in the U20 race in Hyeres, France - his best showing in his three appearances in this age-group category.
Wanders has competed very sparingly on this terrain since making his transition to the senior ranks but the 23-year-old’s profile has risen hugely in recent seasons courtesy of some stellar performances on the roads, setting European records at 5km (13:29), 10km (27:25) and the half marathon (59:13).
Switzerland has never won a medal - individual or team - in the senior men’s race at the European Cross Country Championships but Wanders will be a strong contender for the title if he can translate the scintillating form he has demonstrated on the roads to an undulating and twisting course at the Bela Vista Park.
The Swiss contingent has won individual medals in the senior women’s race though. Anita Weyermann won the individual gold medal in 1999 before Fabienne Schlumpf won individual silver in Tilburg last year, missing out on the title by just one second.
Wanders has been training for the championships at his usual training base in Iten, Kenya and he will return to racing at the Course de l’Escalade over 7.3km in Geneva on Sunday when he will face the significant challenge of Ethiopia’s Telahun Haile Bekele, the world leader in the 5000m this year at 12:52.98.
In fact, Weyermann’s gold medal in 1999 is Switzerland’s only gold medal in European Cross Country Championships history but it is not inconceivable the Swiss team could leave the Portuguese capital with two titles.
In the U20 race, Delia Sclabas will be looking to sign off her illustrious junior career by improving on her silver medal from last year. Sclabas, 18, has won seven medals from major age-group track championships since 2016, including gold in the 1500m at the Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships and bronze medals in the 800m and 1500m at the 2018 World U20 Championships.
The full Swiss team can be found here.