/ Athletics

Britton breezes to gold in Slovenia

Updated: Sunday, 11 Dec 2011 17:38

European Cross Country Champion - Fionnuala Britton led her rivals a merry dance in Slovenia
European Cross Country Champion - Fionnuala Britton led her rivals a merry dance in Slovenia

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Wicklow's Fionnuala Britton won gold at the 18th SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Velenje, Slovenia on Sunday.

The Kilcoole AC athlete ran a determined race from the front, shaking off the attention of all her challengers before pulling clear with a couple of laps to go.

Maintaining a smooth rhythm throughout, she raced to a wide-margin victory over Dulce Felix of Portugal, with Gemma Steel of Britain back in third.

The victory was Ireland's second gold medal in the race after Catherina McKiernan's success at the inaugural championships back in 1994.

In last year's race, Britton faded out of the medals to finish in a frustrating fourth place and that was very much in her thoughts going into today's race.

Speaking after the race, the new European Champion said:

"I can hardly believe it. That was the plan (to make the running) from that start and I knew I had to it. After last year, this is the only medal I wanted. In a ways, it's been on my mind for the whole year."

In the men's race, Joe Sweeney of Ireland ran a huge race to finish fifth behind Atelaw Bekele of Belgium.

The Dundrum South Dublin AC athlete raced to prominence early and was in second place behind runaway leader and eventual winner Bekele as he approached the bell.

However, he was unable to maintain his position amongst the medals through a punishing last lap, but stayed on dourly to finish a very honourable fifth place.

The men’s team finished sixth overall, with Paul Pollock contributing with a fine debut performance at the championships, which saw him race home in 26th place.