Velenje, SloveniaSerhiy Lebid shared cautious optimism about his chances for collecting title number ten at tomorrow’s European Cross Country Championships in this north central Slovenian city.
Speaking at the afternoon official press conference, the 36-year-old Ukrainian and defending champion said his pre-champions training plan hit a glitch when unexpected snow kept him off the roads and trails.
“I missed one month of training last month, I was in the Russian mountains and there was lots of snow, so we couldn’t train,” said Lebid, whose first title came way back in 1998.
“So because of that I don’t know what kind of shape I’m really in. I won’t really know until the race tomorrow.”
Win or lose, Lebid will is extend his continental championships start streak to 18, the only athlete to have contested each edition of the European Cross Country Championships. And at least for now, it’s a streak that won’t be ending any time soon.
“I really like running in the European Cross Country Championships,” Lebid said, smiling. “Usually, I have two to three months of good training. Usually. Next year I’ll certainly compete again. In the next two, three, four or five years, I don’t know. If I’m in good shape, then I’ll run.”
Twell’s international return
Also happy to be running is Stephanie Twell of Great Britain, who made her name at these championships after taking three junior titles. Now 23, Twell is looking forward to racing after suffering a broken ankle in a Cross Country race nearly one year ago.
"It marks my return to international competition after my injury, it's been a really tough year,” said Twell, who also raced to World junior 1500m gold in 2008. “I'm really excited to have a team kit on again. This championship has been very important to me since I was a junior."
Despite the break in three places which required some metal work, Twell said that she’s running without any pain or discomfort.
Sonja Roman, Slovenia’s top entry in the women’s race, will also be making a comeback, in her case from a thigh injury that sidelined the 2009 European indoor 1500m bronze medallist for most of the past two seasons. She’s eager to see what’s she’s ready to do before a home crowd.
"I was on the course yesterday and I liked it quite a bit. My coach (Joszef Babinec) saw it for the first time and was excited. He's convinced that it will be a very fast race. But I'm not going to adjust my race to anyone else. I know what I'm capable of."
Boštjan Buc, Slovenia’s national record holder in the 3000m Steeplechase, is originally from this area.
“I train in Velenje and it'll be a lot like racing on my home course," he said. "Cross country is the basis for runners from 800 metres to the marathon. This race will be a good test for me before the Olympic Games.”
Germany's Gesa Felicitas Krause, a favourite in the women’s junior race, also hopes her appearance on Sunday is yet another stepping stone in her rapidly rising career.
My season was very awesome and I hope it can continue this weekend,” Krause, who set the European junior record in the 3000m steeplechase last summer and finished ninth in the event at the World Championships in Daegu. “My training has been going good and I’m expecting a good race and am excited about racing. It’s the next step on the way to the Olympics.”
A record 489 competitors from 33 countries are on the official start lists for the Sunday’s six races. The races will be broadcast live in eight countries with six others broadcasting delayed coverage.
There will also be live streaming with English language commentary via the European Athletics website at www.european-athletics.org.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF