Monday 9 December 2019

Athletics: Britton leads Euro assault in Edinburgh

Fionnuala Britton. Photo: Sportsfile
Fionnuala Britton. Photo: Sportsfile

Cliona Foley

DOUBLE European champion Fionnuala Britton and team gold medallist Linda Byrne both go into tomorrow's Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross-Country with a dual mandate.

Not only are they chasing personal success but they have also been selected to represent Europe in the team event as the race also doubles as a triangular international against the best of America and Britain.

Britton won this race very impressively last year so, like her performance in Budapest last month, goes into it as the woman that everyone else will be targeting.

"I'm in good shape at the moment and was pleased with my run at the big Brussels race just before Christmas (second) so I hope I've still got that sort of shape after the holidays," the Kilcoole AC star said.

Byrne, who finished eighth at the Europeans, has been similarly abstemious over Christmas. She won a mixed 5km in Longford on St Stephen's Day and two days later flew to Monte Gordo for warm-weather training with a group from DCU. The Olympic marathoner from DSD flew straight from Portugal to Edinburgh yesterday.

"I took the week off completely after Budapest because I was very tired and quite sore afterwards," Byrne said of Ireland's historic women's team title.

"But I have been training away since then and I'd hope to run a similar race here. I was out on the course and it is a bit sticky so I'd say it will be quite muddy after the junior races. Edinburgh is always a tough course but I'm absolutely delighted to be here and especially to be selected for Europe."

There are few cross-country courses as tough as the one in Holyrood Park, with its famously testing climb up Arthur's Seat, but both have plenty of experience of it and Britton has made light of the testing terrain in the past.

The European team also contains both of the minor medallists from Budapest – Ana Dulce Felix (Portugal) and Adrienne Herzog (Netherlands) – as well as Sophie Duarte (France) and Lisa Christina Stublic (Croatia), who were both top-nine finishers there.

Italy's senior men's champion Andrea Lalli is unavailable but four of the men in the top 10 in Budapest, including silver medallist Hassan Chadi (France) and 2011 champion Ayad Lamdassem, are included.

And Ukrainian Sergiy Lebid, who finished a disappointing 15th at the Europeans, has also received a special invitation after impressing over 10km on the road last weekend.

The senior women's 6km starts at 1.42 and will be followed by the world-class invitational 3,000m (2.12) featuring Kenyan world champions Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai against their Ethiopian rival and Olympic 5,000m champ Meseret Defar.

Great Edinburgh Cross-Country,

Live (tomorrow), BBC 1, 1.0

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