Saturday 25 February 2017

Athletics: Buoyant Britton ready to take on world's best in Seville

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

GIVEN her current form, it is a real shame that there are no world cross-Country Championships this year -- but Fionnuala Britton is testing herself in the next closest thing on Sunday.

And Kilcoole AC's new European champion has absolutely no fears about taking on the best Africans in a big IAAF cross-country race in Seville.

"There is absolutely no point in me going there unless I believe I can beat them," she declared.

Britton was 14th in the world tests in 2007 and 16th last year, but the event is now only run every second year.

The form she showed while decimating an international field by 20 seconds in Edinburgh last weekend demonstrates that Britton has never been in better shape to take on the top Kenyans and Ethiopians, who dominate global distance running.

But she concedes that Sunday's Cross-Country de Italica is the toughest race she has faced this season, including last month's European victory in Slovenia.

Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot, Linet Masai, Mercy Cherono and Prischa Jepleting lead the field, which also includes Ethiopia's Ayelew Wude and a host of the top Spaniards.

Cheruiyot is the current world cross-country champion, Cherono is the junior champion and Masai was runner-up at the last three world cross-country events, as well as being a gold and bronze medallist at 10,000m at the last two world track championships.

Throw in Jepleting, fourth in the 10,000m in Daegu last summer, and Wude, who was sixth at last year's world cross-country, and the field is stellar.

But Britton is looking forward to now measuring herself against the best in the world.

"Last week, I suppose I was the one everyone was watching, but this week, given the calibre of the other people in the race, that pressure is off, thankfully," she said.

Britton noticeably didn't make her move until the third of three laps last Saturday but says she had no set race-plan and is approaching this weekend's challenge with a similarly open mind.

"It is hard to tell how these races will go, you just have to be alert on the day," the Olympic steeplechaser said.

"The Kenyans tend to make one really strong move at some point in these races. Whether that's at the start or later on you never know, but it is never a gradual build-up with them. I've got to be ready for that move whenever it happens because if they get away it's pretty hard to reel them back in and you don't want to find yourself in that situation," she admitted.

Staged around the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Italica, the red clay course is flat and usually fast and the race has been won by either a Kenyan or Ethiopian for the last nine years, with Cheruiyot triumphing last season.

Britton has never raced there before, but Catherina McKiernan twice won this race in her prime in the early '90s.

Joe Sweeney also races in Sunday's prestigious event.

Irish Independent

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