December 1 - Ukraine's 37-year-old cross country specialist Sergiy Lebid will seek his tenth European cross country title in Budapest later this month.
Since 1994, Lebid (pictured top) is the only athlete to have competed in every European cross country event, and for the last month he has been planning to earn further success in the race on December 9.
A year ago Lebid dropped out of the event for the first time at around 7.5 kilometres of the 10km race in Velenje, Slovenia.
"I felt I could not improve, I was, at that time, running at around 15th or 16th position," he said then.
"The podium was too far away for me."
He had been injured in the build-up to the race and his preparations had been affected because of too much snow at his base in southern Russia.
Now he has been training in both Eupatoria in the Ukraine and has moved to Kislovodsk, a city in Russia's North Caucasus region.
"In October I began my special preparation in a training camp in Eupatoria and now I'm training in Kislovodsk, [which is] my annual altitude preparation before the champs," Lebid said.
"Last year I couldn't make all the necessary work because of cold and snowy weather.
"This year everything is going according to my training plans.
"I'm feeling great and have no problems with injuries.
"There is no sense for me to come to Budapest just as one of the participants.
"I have to be in my greatest shape to have ability to fight for my 10th gold medal.
"If everything goes right, I'll try to do it."
He will not run before the Championships as he seeks to add another victory to a sequence which began in Ferrara, Italy in 1998.
His second win was in 2001 in Thun in Switzerland, beginning a run of success where he was crowned champion every year until 2005.
Since 2007 he has won the title on three occasions, the last being back in Portugal, in Albufeira in 2010.
Lebid won silver at the 2001 World Cross Country Championships in Ostend, while the only time he has made the podium at a major senior track event was when winning bronze at the European Athletics Championships in Munich in 2002.
But it is the SPAR European Cross Country Championships with which he will always be associated.
He said: "It's a race which established my name more than 10 years ago.
"It will be a sad day when I can't run in it any longer so I want to keep being on the start line for as long as possible."
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