Wednesday 22 May 2019

Britton shows true grit in Edinburgh cross-country

Fionnula Britton in action in Edinburgh yesterday where she finished second behind Emilia Gorecka
Fionnula Britton in action in Edinburgh yesterday where she finished second behind Emilia Gorecka

Cliona Foley

Fionnuala Britton bounced back from the disappointment of the European Cross-Countries last month by finishing second at the Great Edinburgh Cross-Country, where she also led Europe to the women's team title.

The Kilcoole athlete, who won the European cross-country title in 2011 and 2012 - and was fourth in 2013 and sixth this year when she led Ireland to team bronze - was always to the fore and pushed the pace right from the start.

In the end she found herself in a terrific tussle with a British athlete but not the one that was expected.

Her ability to push the pace saw Britain's new European Cross-Country champion Gemma Steel burnt off by the halfway point when Britton led a three-woman breakway.

But in the end, Britain's two-time European junior champion Emilia Gorecka got away from her in the last 500m after an absorbing race in horrible conditions, which had resulted in swirling snow as she crossed the line.

Steel, who never found her stride in the mud, finished 11th and Gorecka, like Britton, was delighted to bounce back as the three time junior medallist was very disappointed to only finish in 12th place in the U23 race at the Europeans.

Britton finished the 6km event in 21:33, just six seconds adrift of Gorecka and Spain's Trihas Gebre was third in 21:50 and also played a key role in Europe winning the team title, with America pipping Britain for second.

Dunboyne's Sara Treacy (16th) and Leevale's Michelle Finn (22nd) were also part of the European team.

In the newly-introduced invitational team relay (2 x 1km), Danny Mooney (Letterkenny AC) and Maria McCambridge (DSD) represented Ireland and placed eighth in seven minutes.

Illness

Meanwhile, legendary Irish athlete Jim Hogan (81), who represented both Ireland and Great Britain in Olympic Games in the 60s, has passed away after illness.

Originally Jim Cregan, from Athlacca in Limerick, he changed his name by deed poll after moving to Britain to find work in 1960 because he thought that it was the only way he could compete outside Ireland.

He competed for Ireland in the 10,000m at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was so disgusted at his performance that he wanted to prove his critics wrong by competing in the marathon less than a week later.

He then famously duked it out with Abebe Bikila for the first 23 miles of that event before exhaustion and dehydration forced him to pull out and surrender the silver medal.

"We both went under 1 hour 40 minutes, breaking the world record for 20 miles in the process - the famous Ethiopian Bikila, tracked by an unknown in an Irish singlet," he later recalled in his autobiography The Irisman Who Ran for England.

Disenchanted with Irish officialdom, Hogan subsequently declared for Britain and won the European marathon title in 1966, the year he also broke a world record for 30km by running 1:32:25 in Walton-on-Thames. He also represented Britain at 10,000m in the 1968 Olympics.

Hogan's other great passion was horse racing. He rode work for jumps trainer PP Hogan before he went to England and when he returned, broke and trained horses in Knocklong and had some good point-to-pointers including, appropriately, a horse called Marathon Jim.

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