Report10 Dec 2023

Grovdal and Schrub win European cross titles in Brussels


Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal wins in Brussels (© Getty Images)

Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal completed a European Cross Country Championships hat-trick while Yann Schrub claimed a first senior men’s title for France at a muddy Laeken Park in Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday (10).

On a day that saw Great Britain top the medal table, Megan Keith and Will Barnicoat won the U23 titles, and their British compatriot Innes FitzGerald got U20 gold. Axel Vang Christensen won a sprint finish to claim the men’s U20 title for Denmark.

After her victories in Dublin in 2021 and Turin in 2022, Grovdal became just the third athlete in event history to claim three or more consecutive titles as she dominated the women’s 9km contest.

The 33-year-old, who won the U20 title in 2009, crossed the finish line in 33:40, 45 seconds ahead of Italy’s multiple U20 and U23 winner Nadia Battocletti, who passed Great Britain’s Abbie Donnelly on the final lap to secure silver.

Donnelly held on for bronze, clocking 34:42 to finish 18 seconds ahead of Ireland’s two-time champion Fionnuala McCormack, who was back in action just one week after qualifying for her fifth Olympic Games in the Valencia Marathon and less than six months after welcoming her third child. Britain’s Jessica Warner-Judd finished fifth.

“Everyone thinks that I am training in mud like this, but I don't,” Grovdal told European Athletics. “Actually, I am a track athlete, but I have a background from cross country skiing. That's probably why I am good at cross country.

“Of course, I will try to win a fourth title next year, but I think three-in-a-row is already amazing.” 

The senior men’s 9km was much closer, with European 10,000m bronze medallist Schrub winning by three seconds ahead of Norway’s Magnus Tuv Myhre. Belgium’s Robin Hendrix was third, a further two seconds back.

Yann Schrub celebrates his win at the European Cross Country Championships

Yann Schrub celebrates his win at the European Cross Country Championships (© Getty Images)

Great Britain’s Hugo Milner led after the first four laps but then Schrub pushed ahead on the final two loops, eventually holding off Tuv Myhre and Hendrix.

Milner finished fourth in 30:27, six seconds ahead of Israel’s Tadesse Getahon.

Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed placed ninth to become the first member of the Athlete Refugee Team to claim a top 10 finish at a major championship.

“In the beginning I found myself in the lead and thought that this is not where I am supposed to be and thought that the others would come back,” said Schrub. “Two laps from the finish, I realised that it wouldn't happen. I pushed a little extra to increase my lead.”

Great Britain claimed the women’s team title from Spain and Belgium, while Belgium won the men’s team title ahead of France and Norway.

Pre-race favourite Keith lived up to that billing to win the women’s U23 title by a record margin. Taking an early lead, she maintained that all the way through the 7km contest and clocked 25:32, finishing 1:23 ahead of Finland’s Ilona Mononen. Nathalie Blomqvist claimed a second medal for Finland, getting bronze in 27:06. Keith led the British team to the title ahead of Germany and Spain.

In the men’s race, Barnicoat added the U23 title to the U20 gold he claimed in Turin last year as he passed Valentin Bresc of France with the finish line in sight. Although Bresc fought back, Barnicoat managed to hold on and won the 7km race, with both athletes being timed at 23:42. Barnicoat’s compatriot Matthew Stonier was third, nine seconds back, and Great Britain claimed the team title ahead of France and Norway.

FitzGerald added another individual gold to Britain’s medal tally, winning the U20 women’s 5km race in 18:19, 19 seconds ahead of Denmark’s Sofia Thogersen. Britain also claimed the team win.

The U20 men’s 5km came down to a thrilling finish as Christensen passed Netherlands’ Niels Laros in the final stretch. Laros was unable to respond and Christensen won by one second in 16:09. Bronze medallist Nicholas Griggs led Ireland to the team title.

France claimed the mixed relay title ahead of Netherlands and Great Britain.

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