Expectations were high for Norwegian athletes going into the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, with reigning champion from Budapest Henrik Ingebrigsten and European Athlete of the Month of October Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal.
Both athletes missed out on the podium in Belgrade but will shift their focus to the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, the main objective of the season.
The real anomaly in Belgrade was Ingebrigsten who finished tenth in the men’s under-23 race over 8km after having taken gold in the previous edition.
After the race he said: “I don’t think this performance represents how well I have been training. I just had a really bad day with difficulties breathing. I now look forward to getting back to the track.”
Ingebrigsten is more of a middle-distance runner, the relatively flat 8km track and quick pace on Sunday seemed to have got the best of him.
The 22-year-old will try to follow the same routine as last year which led him to a gold medal in the 1500m at the 2012 European Athletics Championships in Helsinki.
He will go to a training camp in South Africa before starting his season in the USA.
His young Norwegian teammate, Orjan Gronnevig finished sixth in Belgrade and is more comfortable running long distances. He will try to make the team in Norway in the 5,000m or 10,000m events.
Fellow compatriot, Bjerkeli Grovdal, looked capable of winning on Sunday, as she spent the majority of her time at the front of the pack.
However when Sophie Duarte of France attacked with one lap to go, she was unable to respond, finally taking an honourable fifth place. “For my first time in the senior’s race I’m happy with fifth,” she said after the race.
She will train for the world half-marathon championships in Copenhagen to build her endurance for the 10,000m in Zurich. “The most important part of 2014 will be the European Championships. I have already started training in high altitude to try to get a medal,” she added.
Bjerkeli Grovdal is transitioning to long distance running and plans to race her debut marathon in autumn 2015 and then the marathon at the Rio Olympics.
It's safe to say that things didn't go according to plan for the Norwegians in Belgrade, but this young group of athletes shows promise for the years to come, and will be aiming for more at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.