Recently crowned European 3000m steeplechase champion Topi Raitanen will make his senior debut at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Piemonte-La Mandria Park on the outskirts of Turin on 11 December.
But after sprinting to steeplechase gold in Munich in August, Raitanen will be targeting team success in the fifth edition of the mixed relay in La Mandria Park, the newest addition to the SPAR European Cross Country Championships programme.
This will be the first time Finland has fielded a mixed relay team at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships. Raitanen will be joined by middle distance specialists Joonas Rinne and Viola Westling as well as steeplechaser Camilla Richardsson. The latter is also planning to contest the individual senior women’s 8km next month.
"For a couple of years now, it has been realistic for us to include a relay team. It's great that such a high-level team is going to the championships now," said Finnish Sports Association endurance running coach Rami Virlander.
Great Britain & NI won the mixed relay in Fingal-Dublin last December ahead of Belgium and France respectively.
From the team of eleven Finnish athletes who are making the journey to Turin, there will also be medal hopes in the individual women’s U23 and U20 races.
Fresh from winning the Nordic title on a challenging and varied course in Kristiansand earlier this month, Nathalie Blomqvist will be in contention for a medal in the U23 category while European U20 3000m champion Ilona Mononen will be looking to upgrade on her fourth-place finish from last year in the U20 race.
Finland has only won three medals in the history of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and their sole gold medal came courtesy of Annemari Sandell who remains the youngest ever winner of the senior title, winning the women’s race in 1995 at the age of 18.
Finland’s Nordic neighbours Sweden have also pre-selected six athletes for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships including former medallists Meraf Bahta and Samrawit Mengsteab and the in-form Sarah Lahti in the senior women’s race.
The SPAR European Cross Country Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics channel.