FIONNUALA BRITTON has taken her fantastic form of 2012 into the new year.
Having finished the 2012 athletic season in a blaze of glory by becoming the first woman to win back toback European cross-country titles, the Kilcoole club flier was back on the winner's podium again on Saturday last.
This time she was successfully defending another title at the Great Edinburgh International cross-country competion, a race she dominated from gun to tape and in which left her long-time nemesis Dulce Felix trailing in her wake.
Indeed, Portugal's Felix had to be content with fifth place as the Kilcoole speedster burned up a strong field with her blistering pace from start to finish.
Britton was the leader of a strong European team that also included Irish team-mate Linda Byrne, who took an impressive sixth place on the back of the inspirational running of the Wicklow athlete.
From the start Britton laid down a marker for the rest of the field as she positioned herself at the head of the pack.
With 600m of the last lap to go, Fionnuala slipped on the wet grassy surface, was dumped on her bum, but she had opened up such daylight between herself and her opponents at that stage that she still cantered home a clear winner, some 16 seconds ahead of Dutch athlete Adrienne Herzog in a time of 20.40.
Fionnuala and Irish colleague Linda Byrne were also part of the victorious European team that took the overall team victory ahead of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the USA.
Next up for Britton and Byrne wil be the IAAF Antrim cross-county this Saturday and once more the Kilcoole lass will be putting her crown on the line.
Now she is hoping that Ireland will have a team entered in the World Championships in March. On her recent form she will be the hot favourite to add the World title to the other titles won over recent months and she feels that having team-mates running alongside her would boost her chances of success even more.
Coach Chris Jones confirmed on Tuesday that Fionnuala will take part in the indoor championships in Gothenburg in March ahead of the world championships later that month.
Fionnuala has just had her best season in the year just ended. Ten days ago in Brussels the double European cross-country champion finished the Lotto Cross Cup with an impressive second place against a highly-rated field that included elite Ethiopian and Kenyan runners.
Fionnuala started her international Junior career in cross country running in 2001, finishing 33rd in the 2003 IAAF world cross country championships, but she has come a long way since then.
Her many successes since include winning a steeplechase silver in the 2006 European Cup; an Under-23 silver medal at the 2006 European crossscountry championships; taking second place in the Almond Blossom cross-county in 2011 and third at the high level Cross de l'Acier cross-country.
She also took gold from the 2011 European cross-country championships in Velenje, Slovenia.