It was quite an eventful 2013 for the men's European Athlete of the Month of December, Belgium’s Pieter-Jan Hannes.
Last year didn't get off to the best start for him, though, as he broke his foot in the spring and was not able to train for several weeks.
Where some athletes need time to recover, Hannes showed his strength and was able to return to form in time for the European Athletics U23 Championships in Tampere, Finland, in July.
“After the broken foot things went really fast, every training session I was feeling better and better,” he said.
Hannes had been confident of his success and had told people that he would come back home with the title, but those listening were not quite so sure.
“I have been telling everyone back home that I am going to win in Tampere," he said at the time.
“In the beginning people were frowning at me, but I have turned my own ambition into reality.”
It was a glorious triumph for defying the odds in the men’s 1500m as he powered down the home straight to win gold in 3:43.83 from Great Britain’s Charlie Grice in 3:44.41 and Spain’s Alberto Imedio in 3:44.65.
He had previously run a personal best of 3:35.97 in the build up to Tampere - a Belgian under-23 record - for the 1500m before then producing his fastest time in the 800m of 1:47.30.
It was this speed which he used to its full extent in the 1500m final in Finland having dictated the race after an initial slow start.
This was only the beginning of things to come, as he entered the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade flying under the radar once again.
Before the start, the presence of Norway’s defending champion Henrik Ingebrigsten meant he was the man to beat.
But he was unable to stay with the breakaway group once Hannes made his move, and once he was gone he couldn’t be caught, as many must have been surprised by his endurance.
The Belgian displayed how well he can transfer his track form and speed to the longer distance on the terrain.
Fifty metres from the line he was waving his left hand, then his right, and then both arms were raised in the air. He was beaming with delight and who could blame him.
“I only started to realise what was going on as I crossed the finish. This is one of the greatest wins of my career,” he said.
Hannes took gold in 24:02 from Tsenov, five seconds behind him, with Cerovac of Serbia providing some cheer to the home crowd third in 24:08.
This was the perfect ending to a great season for Hannes, and we hope to see him continue all the way through to the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, with him set to contend for the 1500m title on the senior stage.