Ahmet Arslan of Turkey wins the men's title at the 2008 European Mountain Running Champs (Pete Hartley) © Copyright
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Turkey consolidates growing success at European Mountain Running Championships

The seventh European Mountain Running Championships took place in the small Black Forest town of Zell am Harmersbach, Germany on Saturday 12 July. The up/down courses attracted athletes from 25 countries.

The previously dominant Italians now have to meet the challenge of some fine mountain runners from Turkey.

The scene was set for some Turkish medals when the junior women finished second with eight points led home by Esra Gullu. Russia kept up their tradition of entering strong junior teams by taking the gold medal position when placing their counting athletes first (Mariya Bykova) and third. The Great Britain junior team, led by Hannah Bateson in fifth position took the bronze medal position.

Turkish progress in mountain running was really demonstrated in the junior men’s race - previously dominated by Italy – taking all medal positions, led home by gold medallist Hasan Pak. This sweep repeated their overwhelming superiority of last year.

In the senior women’s race former medallist countries reasserted their credentials. Elisa Desco (ITA) confirmed her fine form in last year’s World Trophy (where she was fourth) by winning in at time of 40 minutes, 18 seconds in front of Constance Devillers (FRA). Sarah Tunstall (GBR), after leading on the first lap slipped to third but enjoyed leading the British team to a gold medal win, backed up by Victoria Wilkinson (5th) and Katie Ingram (9th) for a team total of 17 points. France took silver with 21 points and Italy bronze with 22 points. Seventeen nations finished the race with full teams.

In the men’s race Ahmet Arslan (TUR) retained his title won last year on an uphill only course. His time was 50:01. The traditionally strong Italian senior men’s team placed 2, 3, and 6, led home by new boy Bernard Dematteis to win the team gold medal comfortably.

Multiple World champion in recent years and former European champion in up/down races, Marco de Gasperi (ITA), had to be satisfied with third place nearly a minute behind the winner.

The contest for the silver and bronze medal team positions was resolved by the last counter for each of Spain, France and Turkey who all scored 32 points. With their last counter in 13th position Spain took their first medals in the championships with a silver. France placed their last counter in 15th position so took bronze. Turkey with their last counter in 17th position were edged out of the team medals on this occasion. 19 countries finished full teams.

Hansjorg Wirz, president of European Athletics declared himself well satisfied with the very successful and well organised championships. Austria (Telfes) has applied to stage the ‘uphill only’ European championships in 2009.

Danny Hughes for the IAAF

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