The yearly event will be held in Slovakia for the very first time next month and the championships will be staged at the x-bionic® sphere - a certified Olympic training centre and the country’s official Olympic training centre for 27 sports.
The SPAR European Cross Country Championships first took place in Alnwick, Great Britain in 1994 when Portugal’s Paulo Guerra and Ireland’s Catherina McKiernan won the men’s and women’s senior races. In 1997, U20 races were added to the schedule before U23 races were included for the first time in 2006.
The programme has expanded even further and an innovative mixed relay has been added to the schedule. According to preliminary entries, a record 610 athletes from 39 Member Federations - including one Authorised Neutral Athlete - are set to compete in Šamorín across the seven events with three countries - Armenia, Iceland and Moldova - ready to make their debuts at the European Cross Country Championships.
The course in Šamorín is largely flat and fast but with some man-made obstacles and different underfoot terrain to challenge the athletes. Average temperatures in Samorin in December range from zero to four celsius - a marked difference to the warm conditions on offer in Chia, Italy twelve months ago.
Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen won the U20 titles in Chia last year while Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli and Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui took the titles in the U23 races. Aras Kaya and Yasemin Can dominated the men’s and women’s senior races respectively and helped Turkey to the top of the medal table ahead of Great Britain and Germany.
From an historical perspective, Ukraine’s Sergiy Lebid is the most successive athlete in championship history with nine individual senior titles between 1998 and 2010 while Paula Radcliffe, Hayley Yelling and Fionnuala McCormack are the only repeat winners in the senior women’s race.
The championships begins at 8.45am local time with the Opening Ceremony while the U20 women’s race kicks off proceedings at 9.00am. The championships will conclude with a mass participation race just before 3.00pm.