Sprint finishes earned Norway’s Filip Ingebrigtsen and Yasemin Can of Turkey the men’s and women’s senior individual European Cross Country Championships on a traditionally muddy and treacherous course at Tilburg in The Netherlands today.
A large crowd turned up to the Beekse Bergen Safari Park on a rainswept day when the 25- year -old Ingebrigtsen - the 2016 European 1500 metres champion - completed a family double following the third consecutive win in the under-20 men’s race for his 18-year-old brother Jakob, who took the European 1500m and 5,000m titles in Berlin this year.
The elder Ingebrigtsen ran at the front for much of the senior men’s 10,300m course at this European Athletics event, in company with Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Özbilen, the defending champion, Aras Kaya, the 2016 winner, and Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli.
On the final lap he emerged from the wooded area at the front of the field with just Kimeli for company before surging to his first European cross country title in 28min 49sec.
"This is for sure not my distance," admitted Ingebrigtsen.
"I was trying to improve the weak side of my running, and this is one way of doing it.
"To come here and win the senior race with this level of athletes is something I didn´t dream of before."
Kimeli took the silver medal in 28:52, with Kaya earning bronze in 28:56 and helping Turkey to gold in the team race over Great Britain.
Can, the defending champion, lived up to her position as favourite tag in the women’s 8,300m race, leading for most of the race before holding off a spirited challenge from Switzerland’s Fabienne Schlumpf to win by one second in 26:05.
Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal claimed the bronze medal in 26:07, with Dutch athletes Susan Krumins and Jip Vastenburg next in to secure the home nation a memorable victory in the team event.
"The race wasn’t very easy, mostly because of the wind," said the Kenyan-born Can.
Ingebrigtsen junior rounded off what has been a stellar year with another assured performance, although it looked briefly as if his hat-trick of wins was in doubt as Spain’s Ouassim Aumaiz built a 10-metres lead with a little over one lap remaining.
Oumaiz, who had high-fived Ingebrigtsen earlier in the race, began to wave to the crowd and rally the atmosphere, but the Spaniard’s smiling stopped abruptly when Ingebrigtsen appeared on his shoulder moments later.
He swiftly left his rival far behind as he surged clear to take victory in 18:00, nine seconds clear of Oumaiz, with Serbia’s Elzan Bibić claiming the bronze medal in 18:11.
Norway took the team title with 28 points.
"It was a tough race," said Ingebrigtsen.
"I’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s fun to compete in these conditions.
"With the mud it was difficult to get in the rhythm."
Ingebrigtsen felt his rival’s mid-race antics had only added to the fun.
"It’s important when people come to watch that we show we’re appreciative," he said.
"I think he wanted me to get in front and be the pacemaker, but I gave him a high-five and he seemed satisfied with it."
In the under-20 women’s race, Italy’s Nadia Battocletti was another to earn victory with a final sprint.
The 18-year-old came home in 13:46, one second clear of race favourite Delia Sclabas of Switzerland, with Turkey’s Inci Kalkan taking bronze with 13:48.
Britain were clear winners in the team event with just 23 points, beating The Netherlands, who amassed 28.
France’s Jimmy Gressier was an easy winner in the men’s under-23 race, coasting to his second straight victory in 23:37, 12 seconds clear of Germany’s Samuel Fitwi, with France’s Hugo Hay finishing third in 23:48.
"The biggest difference compared to last year is the fact that I was the one who was chasing then and this year I was the one getting chased," said Gressier, whose finishing flourish of sliding over the line on his knees carrying two French flags ended with an unplanned face-plant into the finishing tape.
France took the team event with just 11 points ahead of Great Britain and Spain.
Denmark’s 21-year-old Anna Emilie Moller claimed the women’s under-23 title, surging clear of long-time leader Anna Gehring of Germany in the home straight to win by two seconds in 20:34.
Poland’s Weronika Pyzik took third with 20:46, with the team title going to Germany on 22 points ahead of Spain who scored 25.
The Spanish quartet of Saul Ordonez, Esther Guerrero, Victor Ruiz and Solange Andreia Pereira held off France by two seconds to win the 4x1500m mixed relay in 16:10, with Belarus third in 16:21.