SEBASTIAN Coe has caused a stir by suggesting that the Winter Games may be the place for cross-country running to fit into the Olympics.
There has been talk for some time about returning cross-country to the Olympic programme and Coe's comments, in an interview ahead of tomorrow's Great Edinburgh Cross-Country, hint at where the debate may be headed next.
"I would love to see cross-country back in the Olympic programme," he said. "Thinking outside the box, why not include it in the Winter Olympic programme because you would then broaden it to African nations?"
Coe has previously chaired a major seminar on the future of cross-country and has also already thrown his hat into the ring for the presidency of the international athletics' federation (IAAF) so his ideas will carry weight.
Three Irish athletes will be wearing the European vest in the international race at that Great Edinburgh Cross-Country tomorrow (live BBC One, 1-2.30pm).
Two-time European champion Fionnuala Britton and Meath's Sara Treacy - sixth and 12th respectively at Europeans last month - were both immediately selected and Leevale's Michelle Finn, whose 23rd place helped Ireland secure team bronze in Bulgaria, has since also got the call-up. Treacy (25) and Finn (24) have more than cross-country in common as both went abroad to pursue their studies and athletics and are also emerging steeplechasers.
Finn, a graduate of Western Kentucky, is now back at home but Treacy is juggling her training with the life of a junior doctor in Britain.
But the Meath athlete - originally with Moynalvey but now competing for Dunboyne AC and Birchfield Harriers in the UK - is able to work reduced hours in a hospital in Dudley, half an hour away from her University of Birmingham base.
And she believes that a switch of S&C coach and the high quality of her training group have all helped her rediscover top form after several injury-wracked years.
Her training group, coached by Bud Buldaro, includes Julie Cooke and Paralympian Dean Miller but best known is Hannah England, Britain's world-class metric miler and world silver medallist in 2011.
After six years of study, including a year's sport science specialism in Loughborough, she is now qualified but her hospital allows her work just half of the expected hours (24, compared to 40-plus) and also work reduced 'on-call' hours.
Treacy's 12th place at Euro Cross' further confirmed her return to form last summer. Just three months after taking up steeplechase, she dethroned Finn as Irish champion and took her PB from 9:51 to 9:47.
At home, the Antrim International Cross-Country, traditionally held in early January, has been moved to March 14 so the domestic season begins this weekend with the first round of the GloHealth National Indoor League in Athlone on Sunday (12-3pm).