Italy has enjoyed an unforgettable year in the sporting world, not least in athletics with five gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and there could be one more hurrah for Italian athletics this year at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Fingal-Dublin on 12 December.
Both Nadia Battocletti and Yemaneberhan Crippa have topped the podium at the European Cross Country Championships in the past and this year’s edition which takes place at the Sport Ireland Campus on the outskirts of Dublin looms large in their respective plans for the rest of 2021.
Battocletti is the only Italian woman to have won an individual title at the European Cross Country Championships and she has done so twice, triumphing in the U20 race in 2018 and 2019. She has since graduated out of the junior ranks and Battocletti has the luxury of choosing between the U23 and senior races next month.
Battocletti won on the track at U23 level at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Tallinn - one of six gold medals which propelled Italy to the top of the medal table in the Estonian capital - before making another significant step forward in her nascent senior career at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Battocletti set a lifetime best of 14:55.83 in the heats before improving to 14:46.29 in the finak to finish an excellent and unexpected seventh, the second European finisher home behind gold medallist Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands. This time represented a one minute-improvement on her pre-2021 lifetime best of 15:46.26 almost down to the hundredth! Roberta Brunet's long-standing national record of 14:44.50 is certainly within her grasp as well.
On the road to Dublin, Battocletti will compete against strong senior line-ups in Atapuerca on 14 November and then again the following weekend in Seville on 21 November although she warns she might not be in her best shape at this very early juncture of the season.
"After a season like this, one can only continue to dream. I'm in 70-80 percent shape, we are not working at a full capacity. We will load instead for two weeks after Seville where I will also participate,” Battocletti told FIDAL in a recent interview.
Like Battocletti, Crippa is a former two-time winner of the men’s U20 race and the Italian will be looking to follow suit at senior level in Fingal-Dublin after reaching the podium in Lisbon two years ago.
But unlike Battocletti, Crippa is not planning to race at all ahead of the European Cross Country Championships. Crippa is currently training at high altitude in Iten, Kenya where he will remain until 9 December, only three days before the championships.
And if he triumphs in Dublin next month, Crippa will become just the second Italian to win the senior men’s European cross country title after Andrea Lalli in 2012.
The SPAR European Cross Country Championships will be streamed live through the European Athletics website on 12 December. The timetable for the event can be found here and tickets for the event can be purchased here.