Britton’s golden moment arrives

FIONNUALA BRITTON put the golden seal of approval on a tremendous year for Irish athletics when she claimed the senior women’s title at the 18th SPAR European Cross-Country championships in Slovenia yesterday.

Britton’s golden moment arrives

It was a long overdue reward for the diminutive Wicklow woman who had a bronze medal snatched from her in the closing stages of last year’s race in Albufeira.

She won a silver medal in the U23 race at those championships in Italy in 2006 and she broke the winner of that race, Turkey’s Binnaz Uslu, long before half way yesterday.

Britton now becomes only the second Irish athlete to win an individual gold medal at those championships behind Catherina McKiernan, who won the inaugural event in 1994.

And she did it style by taking total control after the opening kilometre and leaving the other pre-race favourites battling for scraps as she stamped her superiority on the race with every step.

“That was the plan from the start,” she revealed. “I knew that’s what I had to do. But they hung on for so long that I started to panic. When I got away from the Italian I thought I was safe but I knew that the British athlete was coming at me.

“Going into the last lap I could hear Una, my sister, shouting ‘you want it more than anyone else’ and I said ‘I do’.

“I convinced myself that’s what I wanted and I just had to hang on from there because I wasn’t going to lead the whole thing and then be passed in the end like last year.

“It was so fabulous to cross the line first after the disappointment of last year. This is ultimately what I wanted, it’s what everybody wants.”

She was followed across the line by last year’s bronze medallist, Dulce Felix (Portugal) and Gemma Steel (Great Britain). Her sister, Una, finished 38th in the women’s U23 race, while there was another big performance from Ireland’s Joe Sweeney who finished fifth in the senior men’s race, just eight seconds behind runaway winner, Atelaw Yeshetela Bekele (Belgium).

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