10 December 2011
A record 489 athletes will compete across six events in tomorrow’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Velenje, Slovenia (Sunday 11 December) and Stephanie Twell (coach: Mick Woods) is excited to be one of them.
“I’ve had a tough year and I’m really happy to be wearing the British vest again,” said the three-time European Junior cross country champion. “Cross country has been the bread and butter of my athletics career and I’m really excited to be running again.”
The Aldershot athlete has made no secret of her love of cross country running and the benefit it plays in building her strength and endurance base for track success.
After missing the entire summer of 2011 due to a serious ankle break in February, tomorrow’s event marks a return to high quality competition and the resurrection of her London Olympic dream.
“I feel like I can get really involved in the under-23 race and that I can be competitive. I’ve only just seen where I am domestically (running the Trial race in Liverpool), so I’m not too sure where I’ll feature at European level, but I’m going to get involved and I’d be happy with a top ten finish. Anything higher than that would be a bonus.”
Twell was joined in the pre-event press conference by nine-time European Cross Country champion Serhiy Lebid, Germany’s Gesa Krauss - runner up in the junior event 12 months ago, European Junior steeplechase champion and IAAF World Championships finalist - and Slovenia duo Sonja Roman and Bostjan Buc.
They all agreed that cross country was valuable in building towards the London 2012 Games.
“Cross country is the base for everyone,” said Buc, Slovenia’s national record holder in the 3000mSC. “I’m using this year’s cross country as a base for the London Olympics for the steeplechase. In both events we need to be strong.”
His team mate Roman agreed: “I’m happy to be on the start line tomorrow after coming back from injury,” said the Slovenia national record holder over 1500m. “I ran in this event in Slovenia in 1999, and as a middle distance runner, I think this course will be easier. Tomorrow is very important for me because I start my preparations for the London Olympics.”
The course may be easier, but if it remains dry then it will also be quick. For Twell however, the terrain is ideal.
“I’ve just checked out the course, and after my injury I think the flatter ground will suit me,” she admitted. “I wouldn’t say flat running is my preference - for me, my favourite course is Parliament Hill in London and that’s so hilly and muddy - but due to my injury and the plates I’ve got in my ankle I don’t have quite the same range I did and I find I can apply more power on flatter surfaces.”
The Aviva GB & NI under-23 women have the opportunity to maintain a 100% record with five team wins from five since the inaugural age-group event in 2006.
No British woman has won gold in this event, but trials winner Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro), eighth in the European Under-23 Championships 5000m final, spearheads a very strong British challenge alongside Twell and 2011 bronze medallist Emma Pallant (Mick Woods).
The event will be streamed live in its entirety by European Athletics with English language commentary through their website from 09:30 GMT at: www.european-athletics.org
The action will also be shown on BBC 2 from 12:30.
Post-race interviews will be uploaded to the European Athletics YouTube site at www.youtube.com/EuropeanAthletics throughout the day of the event while Aviva GB & NI specific updates will also be posted on UKA’s Twitter Feed at http://twitter.com/UKA_athletics