Gorecka prospecting for gold at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships

Gorecka strolls away to win gold again
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Emelia Gorecka was one of the stars at the Belgrade 2013 SPAR European Cross Country Championships who attracted an impressive television audience.

With nine medals already stashed away from the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, two-time U20 champion Emelia Gorecka has nothing to prove in the last major athletics event of the year.

But by just being named today among the 40 British runners for Samorin on Sunday 10 December is success for the 23-year-old from the south of England county of Surry as she looks to help her nation back to the top of the table.

Gorecka has spent the last couple of years battling injury but showed the strength of her return when she won the official trials in Liverpool on Saturday, leading most of the way to win the 8km race before outsprinting Jess Judd.

“I’ve said all year round, I just wanted to get back racing and be healthy. Me and Chris (Thompson – her coach) have been talking about getting here happy and healthy, and we managed that, so we thought ‘why not’.

“He told me to use my instinct and I hoped it would still be there. He empowered me to believe in myself. I didn’t know what would happen as I’ve hardly raced against those girls this year, but he was right and I managed to win.

“The last time I raced 8km was here three years ago, so there were so many unknowns coming in. I just had to enjoy it, which I did,” reflected Gorecka.

Gorecka has six golds medal from the European cross country championships, with four team titles in addition to those individual successes, but Samorin will be her first outing on the senior stage. Her last medal came in Samokov in 2014 when she was part of the team that took the U23 silver medals.

In Chia last year, Turkey ended Britain’s repeated glory at the top of the medal table but in trying to regain that spot, along with Gorecka, the women’s senior team is strong, packed with experience including Gemma Steel, who won gold in Samokov and will be chasing her 10th medal at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

Lily Partridge, Charlotte Taylor, former U20 champion Steph Twell and Elle Vernon complete the strong team.

After Gorecka took the women’s race on Saturday, Ben Connor won the men’s senior event and he will be looking for championship glory again having been the fourth counter as Britain’s men won team gold in 2016.

“Last year was a surprise for me to make the team but I finished in 16th. Hopefully I can improve on that this year,” said Connor.

He is joined again in the squad by Andrew Butchart, who was fourth in Chia, along with debutants Alex Teuten and Sam Stabler, who were second and third respectively at the trials behind Connor, Dewi Griffiths and Tom Lancashire.

Great Britain win's the senior men's team title at the 2016 SPAR European Cross Country Championships
Great Britain win's the senior men's team title at the 2016 SPAR European Cross Country Championships

Judd, after her run behind Gorecka, will be at the helm of the women’s U23 team while Mahamed Mahamed will be out to make an impression in the men’s U23 event.

Ben Dijkstra and Harriet Knowles-Jones, the latter the U20 silver medallist in 2015 and third last year, won their races at the trials and lead the U20 squads and the British quartet for the mixed relay will be Cameron Boyek, Melissa Courtney, Charlie Grice and Sarah McDonald.