Britain tops medal table in Euro Cross
Five golds and a bronze from seven races was the happy return for the table-topping GB&NI team at the 26th European Cross Country Championships, although there were no British individual medals at aptly-named Parque de Bella Vista in Lisbon on Sunday (8 December).
The hosts provided a traditional, testing course on the outskirts of Portugal's hilly, coastal capital city. Four hours continuous coverage was available on the BBC red button as five champions successfully defended titles gained in a safari park in Tilburg, Holland last year.
The only title to change hands was the senior men's race, won by Robel Fsiha (Sweden) as holder Filip Ingebrigsten (Norway) laboured to 12th place. All the team races were reduced to three-to-score this year but this did not adversely affect the entries as more than 600 athletes were representing 40 countries and GB's full complement was 40-strong.
The men's race was one of Britain's five victories as Andrew Butchart (Central, 5th) – the 2017 bronze medallist – passed the fast-starting Ben Connor (Derby, 9th) to lead GB to golden glory. A strong finish by Kris Jones (Swansea, 22nd) was just enough to pip Belgium by two points.
Britain's senior women then closed the programme with a fairly comfortable win over Ireland through the combined efforts of Jess Judd (Blackburn, 6th), Charlotte Arter (Cardiff, 7th) and Abbie Donnelly (Lincoln, 13th).
Just before the two senior races we enjoyed a fine display of teamwork in the mixed relay. GB won this event when it was introduced to the Euro Cross programme in Samorin, Slovakia two years ago but a fall by Jamie Williamson resulted in fourth place last year. This time there were no such issues as Sarah McDonald (Birchfield), James McMurray (St Albans), Alex Bell (Pudsey & Bramley) and Jonathan Davies (Reading) finished six seconds ahead of Belarus.
The Euro Cross includes development races for under-20 juniors and under-23 men and women. GB took gold in both junior races, though there was a scare when Italy were announced winners of the U20 women's race with the same points as GB. This was an error as Britain's third scorer had finished one place (and one second) ahead of Italy's third athlete, so take a bow Amelia Samuels (Wolverhampton, 12th) who secured gold with Izzy Fry (Newbury, 6th) and Saskia Millard (Herne Hill, 11th).
The gold medal junior men's team was Charles Hicks (Stanford USA, 5th), Matt Willis (Wrexham, 9th) and Zakariya Mahamed (Southampton, 11th). There was bronze for the U23 women led by Bronwen Owen (Leeds, 7th) and the U23 men were a close fourth, following Southampton's pace-setting Mahamed Mahamed (8th).
Full results are available at European Athletics here
Image of GB&NI senior women's team courtesy British Athletics