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Hannes could show the form he is in

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  • Hannes could show the form he is in

When Belgium’s Pieter-Jan Hannes crossed the line in first place in Belgrade last December in the under-23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, it completed a magnificent few months for the young athlete.

Now this weekend his rivals might find out just what sort of shape he is in with the defence of that title only a few weeks away.

Hannes won gold in Serbia by five seconds as he triumphed in 24:02. He turned 22 at the end of last month and could be a major threat in the same event at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov on 14 December.

A gauge to how well he is running will come on Sunday when he competes in the second Lotto Cross Cup in Mol where among his rivals on home terrain will be fellow Belgian Koen Naert who is a former champion of this race series.

Hannes’ success in Belgrade followed on from the previous summer where he had won 1500m gold at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Tampere.

His victory in Belgrade led to him being named as the men’s European Athlete of the Month for December.

And when he reflected on his cross-country gold, he stressed the importance of the competition by saying: 'This is one of the greatest wins of my career.'

Hannes had the right mix of endurance and speed, and he knew he had the ability as the race reached its climax because of the distance he runs on the track.

He said: 'I felt so great, I went for it and if you are a 1500m runner, and there are 5000m and 10,000m runners around you, it is hard for them to beat you. I was pretty sure I could win the sprint. 

'It’s amazing. In cross country you never know what is going to happen and it made this race extra beautiful for me.'

This year, Hannes just missed out on making the 1500m final at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

But it was still a good summer as he ran personal best times for the 1500m, with 3:34.49 in Heusden-Zolder, and the mile, with 3:55.33 in Oslo.

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