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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 30 August, 2015

Fionnuala Britton bids for historic European hat-trick today

Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton is the one they all have to beat in Belgrade later today.

Britton: handled the freezing temperatures perfectly in Budapest last year.
Britton: handled the freezing temperatures perfectly in Budapest last year.
Image: INPHO/Sasa Pahic Szabo

HISTORY BECKONS FOR FIONNUALA Britton at the European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade later today.

Win and she will clinch her third successive continental title, an unprecedented feat.

Only Paula Radcliffe and Hayley Yelling have won the race twice but neither of them managed to do it in back-to-back years.

And although Britton already holds distinction of being the only woman to successfully defend her crown in the race’s 19-year history, she is hungry for more.

A chest infection forced the Kilcoole runner to skip the outdoor season but she looked to be back to her best when she won at the National Inter-counties last month.

She followed that up with a run at Cross de l’Acier in France where she finished seventh overall and as the second-best European, seven seconds behind Sophie Duarte.

That race was run over 6.6km though and today’s longer course — 8km — is expected to benefit Britton as she bids to reverse that form.

Last year’s runner-up Ana Dulce Felix of Portugal, fourth place Almensh Belete of Belgium, and France’s Laurane Picoche all return alongside Duarte in the hope of toppling the champ.

In the men’s race, 27-year-old Paul Pollock holds Ireland’s best chance.

But shortly after midday Irish time, all eyes will be on Britton.

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