Gressier now setting his sights on Tilburg and beyond

France's Jimmy Gressier after winning the Samorin 2017 SPAR European Cross Country Championships men's U23 race
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France's Jimmy Gressier after winning Samorin 2017 SPAR European Cross Country Championships men's U23 race

No man – nor woman for that matter – has ever won back to back U23 titles at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships but Jimmy Gressier believes that he has a very good chance of defending the crown he won on Sunday when the championships are staged in the Dutch city of Tilburg next year.

Having just turned 20 and in his first year in the U23 ranks, the prodigious Frenchman also fancies his chances of making it a hat-trick in 2019 when Lisbon will be the hosts.

“I still have two Europe cross country championships waiting for me, two more beautiful years to progress. This winter, I will definitely run on the track. I want to try to get the 3000m qualifying standard for the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham (7:52.00),” he told the French athletics federation website

 “I am in a state of grace. In sport, at work, at school, with my girlfriend, my family, everything is fine. Next summer, I will focus on the 1500m. I want to pick up speed but I do not exclude a 5000m outing at the end of the season.”

After two successive fourth place finishes in the last two U20 European cross country races, the runner from the northern coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer was someone who merited consideration as a medal prospect in Samorin but with so many other good runners on the start line he was hardly one of the favourites.

“In the past I didn’t have the same confidence as I did today {the original interview was done in the evening after his victory) and I have also learnt from my mistakes. The European U23 championships also served as a reminder that you cannot take anything for granted (he got disqualified for stepping on the inside of the track) even though I had improved all my bests on the track during the summer.

“I have long had these European cross country championships on the horizon and I said to myself ‘no more messing about, no more heroics at the front and then ending up off the podium’.

“In the past I have wanted to get involved in the battle at the front right from the start but I’ve learnt that it’s not who starts in front but who finishes in front that gets the gold medal.

“I have learnt when to attack and how to keep something in reserve for the end of the race.”

Jimmy Gressier leads in Samorin
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Jimmy Gressier leads in Samorin

After two near misses in the U20 race, France's Jimmy Gressier claims the individual and team titles in the U23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships

“This year, from the moment I entered the home stretch, I knew I was untouchable. Nobody could come back at me. I was not prepared to have the title snatched away and I deserved it. I got twice the chocolate medal (fourth place) before getting this the gold.”

Gressier admitted that he’s not just pacing himself better now in individual races but looking at adopting the same attitude to his career.

“There is no secret, if you do the work in training then it pays off. Yet this year, I have been training a lot less than last year. I am alternating training with work experience at Caisse d'Epargne (a French bank).

“With my courses in business studies and work, I work and study 35 hours a week. It does not give me much time to train. I do six to eight weekly sessions, usually six. but in two years, I will have finished my business studies courses and if I miss opportunities now because of my studies, it will not matter. The goal is [the Olympics] in 2020 and 2024.”