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Ingebrigtsens and Gressier to headline an all-star men’s race in Dublin

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  • Ingebrigtsens and Gressier to headline an all-star men’s race in Dublin

Jakob Ingebrigtsen might be the youngest competitor in the senior men’s race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships but the 21-year-old will command the immediate respect of his rivals as he makes his debut in the senior 10km in Fingal-Dublin.

It hardly needs to be said that Ingebrigtsen has excelled across all age groups and across all surfaces. At 17, Ingebrigtsen became the first athlete to win a 1500/5000m double at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin and at 20, Jakob followed suit indoors by becoming the first man to win the 1500m and 3000m at the same European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun this March. A few months later he became Olympic champion in the 1500m, winning gold in a European record of 3:28.32.

His cross country record is equally formidable. Jakob won four successive U20 titles at the European Cross Country Championships from 2016 and 2019 - the latter by a winning margin of 38 seconds which is all the more impressive given Jakob only broke away on the last lap in Lisbon.

Jakob is still eligible for the U23 ranks both this year and next year but the Olympic 1500m champion and multiple European record-holder has chosen to eschew the intermediate ranks to be a part of what might be the strongest ever senior men’s line-up in European Cross Country Championships history.

And as well as being a prime contender for individual honours, the Norwegian team should be in the reckoning for their first ever team title, especially with only three counters to score. Jakob will be joined on the start-line by his older brother Filip, his predecessor as European 1500m champion, who glided across the mud in Tilburg three years ago to land a surprise and stylish victory.

Interestingly though, Jakob doesn’t have the fastest 10km lifetime best in the race - or even in the Norwegian team for that matter. That accolade goes to Zerei Kbrom who took ownership of the national record from Jakob in October with a 27:39 clocking in Valencia.

Kbrom is the one of the older competitors in the race at 35 but this race represents his major championships debut for Norway. Born in Eritrea, Kbrom sought asylum in Norway in 2012 but he only gained clearance to compete for his adopted nation in March 2020.

Also graduating into the senior ranks is France’s Jimmy Gressier who dominated the U23 category at the European Cross Country Championships by winning three successive individual and team titles between 2017 and 2019 on a variety of courses and with differing tactics on each of the three occasions.

While most of the leading contenders haven’t raced since the track season, Gressier showed great form on the French domestic circuit with victories at the short course French Cross Country Championships and at the Cross d’Allonnes where he became the first French winner since 2007. And if Gressier does reach the finish line first, don’t be surprised to see another of his trademark celebrations.

SPAR European Cross Country Championships

The line-up includes five of the top six finishers from Lisbon two years ago, including all three medallists: Türkiye’s Aras Kaya, Yemaneberhan Crippa from Italy and Switzerland’s Julian Wanders.

Out of the triumvirate, Crippa is perhaps the best placed to return to the podium this year. Kaya is seeking a third individual title but his last race resulted in a lowly 21st-place finish in the Lisbon Half Marathon in 64:37 while Wanders, who holds the European records at 10km and the half marathon is still searching for his best form after a season which has been punctuated by a bout of pneumonia.

The line-up also includes two-time Olympic 5000m finalist Andrew Butchart who has placed fourth, third and fourth in 2016, 2017 and 2019. However, he was beaten in the trial race in Liverpool two weeks ago by Jack Rowe.

The Spaniards are fielding a highly experienced team which includes Adel Mechaal and Ayad Lamdassem who finished fifth in the 1500m and marathon respectively at the Tokyo Olympics and are both former medallists at this championships. But their best individual medal hopes could be provided by two of the younger members of the team in Carlos Mayo and Abdessemad Oukhelfen, the latter winning a top quality race in Atapuerca a fortnight ago ahead of most of his teammates.

SPAR European Cross Country Championships Chia 2016

Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli will be searching for his second major European medal of the season after winning silver behind Jakob Ingebrigtsen over 3000m in Torun while other potential medal contenders include Mike Foppen from the Netherlands, Switzerland’s Jonas Raess and Germany’s Samuel Fitwi.

Great Britain & NI are the defending team champs although their reign will be challenged by the aforementioned Norwegians and Spaniards along with France with Gressier to the fore.

The SPAR European Cross Country Championships will be streamed live in its entirety on the European Athletics website from 9.30am local time (GMT).

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