Fionnuala Britton sets sights on third European title
Sunday’s Gerry Farnham Cross Country in the Phoenix Park starts her season
Fionnuala Britton on her way to defending her European Cross Country title in, Szentendre, Budapest, Hungary, last year. Britton has just returned from a three-week training camp at Font Romeu, in the French Pyrenees, and is back in action in the Phoenix Park on Sunday. Photograph: Inpho
After missing most of the track season due to illness Fionnuala Britton is now ready to resume her racing programme – Sunday’s Gerry Farnham Cross Country in the Phoenix Park the first step towards winning a third successive European title in December.
Britton has just returned from a three-week training camp at Font Romeu, in the French Pyrenees, with her coach Chris Jones, now the national endurance coach with Athletics Ireland: around 20 Irish athletes attended the camp in total, most of whom are also building towards the European Cross Country, set for Belgrade, Serbia, on December 8th.
“We have invested heavily in preparations for these championships,” says Jones. “We had a very productive high altitude training camp, in Font Romeu, with our senior squad, and our junior athletes have been involved in squad development sessions allowing for their fitness and preparations to be tracked.”
Britton has traditionally used the Gerry Farnham event to kick-start her cross country season, winning there in the last two years before going on to collect her back-to-back European cross country titles. Athletics Ireland have also announced a couple a changes to the cross country season in order to facilitate the best possible preparation of the Irish teams: the Inter-counties cross country, typically the final trial for the Europeans, has been brought forward a week, to November 17th.
The championships, to be staged in Santry, Dublin will also feature a number of invited international athletes.
It has also been agreed that only the top three finishers in the senior and junior races (men and women) will gain automatic selection for Belgrade, while in the under-23 men and woman, the top three finishers will gain “favourable” selection – opening the door to more US-based athletes who make up a large section of that grade.
Final team selection, however, won’t be announced until November 25th. As an extra incentive to show form early, the top four finishers in the Phoenix Park on Sunday, in both senior and junior races, and the top two under-23 finishers, will go onto represent Ireland at the Lotto Cross Cup in Antwerp, Belgium on November 3rd.
In that race, one athlete will be pre-selected for the Europeans if they finish in the top-eight while one under-23 athlete (men and women) who finishes in the top-12 in the senior race will also gain pre-selection.
With the Irish women’s senior team also looking to defend the gold medals won in Budapest last year, led home by Britton, Athletics Ireland is ensuring all the best athletes at least put themselves in line for selection.