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2022 SPAR European Cross Country Championships press conference highlights

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Ahead of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Piemonte-La Mandria Park, four of the prospective medal contenders spoke to the press at the spectacular La Venaria Reale, the former Royal Residence and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Charles Hicks will be looking to defend his title in the U23 race in La Mandria Park on Sunday where he will renew his rivalry with Ireland’s Darragh McElhinney, the silver medallist behind Hicks twelve months ago.

And if he does succeed tomorrow, this will be his second significant cross country win in the space of three weeks after winning the NCAA cross country title last month, becoming the first European winner of that race since 2000.

On winning the NCAA Cross Country Championships…

“That was an unbelievable race - the race of my life at this point in my career. The focus was making sure I got as much rest and recovery as possible over the past three weeks. Returning to my training base in California was helpful but mostly I’ve been trying to relax, focusing on the little things and keeping the season rolling.”

On the challenging nature of the course in La Mandria Park…

“I think it’s the same as any other factor, especially in cross country - everyone out there is on the same course. I try not to worry about any particular thing out there because I know every one of us is going to have to run it.”

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On comparing the courses on the US collegiate circuit to European cross country courses…

“If you look at my shoes and tights, I’ve brought some of the course with me! It’s very different but the heart of cross country remains the same - you’re going out to compete for yourself and especially your team.

“In terms of how the race plays out, it’s going to be measuring your effort as best you can. Whether that course will take more of that effort than an easier American course, that remains to be seen. But I think I have to stick to my guns and keep doing what’s working for me.”

On whether he considered competing in the senior race…

“I did consider doing the senior race but I think it’s something I have to do for the right time and I think I’m still testing the waters of what I’m capable of. I thought the U23 race made sense to me. I really wanted to get that team win and we came up a little bit short so we are really going to be focusing on that and bringing back as many gold medals to GB. My best chance of doing that is in the U23 race."

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Konstanze Klosterhalfen has amassed an excellent record at the European Cross Country Championships which included gold in the U20 when Italy last staged the championships in 2016 in Chia on the island of Sardinia.

Klosterhalfen will be looking to add further lustre to a season which has included a 5000m gold at the European Athletics Championships in Munich and a brilliant 65:41 half marathon debut in Valencia.

On comparing the conditions tomorrow to the conditions when she won the U20 race in 2016...

“It will be tough tomorrow, it will be different from last time in Italy - it’s pretty cold and the course is pretty tough and hilly. It’s probably not the best course for me but I always enjoy the challenge and I will give my best and I’m excited to be back in Italy.”

On Germany’s chances of winning the team title…

“Yeah, we came here with a really strong team and we are all excited to go out there as a team. We are excited to see how we can take the challenge.

On the prospect of the 50 metre-long indoor section in La Mandria Castle…

“It’s definitely unique. There will be some really beautiful pictures inside. I’m curious to see how the race will take place inside because it’s very narrow and after the muddy section before, it’s nice to have some firm ground but it will be interesting to see how it will go.”

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Yemaneberhan Crippa represents Italy’s best chance of winning a medal in the senior races at the European Cross Country Championships. 

Already a veteran of the championships at the age of 26, this will be Crippa’s tenth appearance at the European Cross Country Championships and he has accrued the same number of medals, including two U20 golds and senior silver in 2019.

On competing at home after winning the 10,000m title in Munich...

“I have a chance to take a second medal this year. This is a new chance to take a medal at cross country. Last year, it was not good [he dropped out while in medal contention due to a stitch] but I have a new chance in Italy.

On the challenging nature of the course…

The course is very, very tough but cross country is like this; I am happy and I am ready for tomorrow. 

On preparing for the championships at altitude in Iten in Kenya…

“In Kenya, the terrain in Kenya is like this course and I am ready. I spent 35 days there at altitude and I am happy to take a prize.

On challenging reigning champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen for the title...

“Jakob is running at a very high level. Tomorrow, I will try and beat him. It won’t be easy but I will try!”

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Nadia Battocletti has been one of the most successful athletes in recent editions of the European Cross Country Championships. Having already won two U20 titles, Battocletti stepped up to win the U23 title in Dublin last year and she will be aiming to defend that title on Sunday. 

On how she has stayed so consistent over the years…

“Probably because every morning when I wake up, I start thinking I have to - this is my motivation.

On the challenges leading up to the championships:

“The last few months were very tough because I had mononucleosis the week before the European Championships and then I’ve had many infections. Indeed I finished my last cycle of antibiotics around 10 days ago. But I want to be here and I never give up.”

On the prospect of her first European Cross Country Championships at home…

“Running at home is very important. I’m very excited and I will wake up and think ‘OK, I’m at home and I will have to run fast.’”

Steven Mills for European Athletics

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