Aldershot athlete is dominant winner of age-group gold at European Cross in Velenje as she leads Britain to gold
With a lap to go, it looked like there might be a fairytale ending to Steph Twell’s comeback from injury in the under-23 women’s race at the Euro Cross in Velenje. But she was denied by her own team-mate from Aldershot, Farnham & District, Emma Pallant, who blasted to victory with a strong surge over the final kilometre.
Agonisingly, Twell finished narrowly out of the medals, too, as she was pipped in the home straight and finished fourth. Pallant, however, was magnificent. Third last year in this event, she was a class apart on Sunday as she not only won but led Britain to team gold.
Fellow Briton Naomi Taschimowitz ran superbly for silver, with Corrina Harrer of Germany breaking the British dominance by snatching third with a fast finish. Then came Twell, a whisker away from an individual podium place. Hannah Walker was seventh, Lauren Howarth 13th and Lily Partridge 20th.
Only three seconds separated second to fifth place and Twell was given the same time as bronze medallist Harrer.
The fact Twell is running at all is a miracle. In January she broke her ankle while leading a cross country race in Belgium and it needed a steel plate and pins to hold it together during a lengthy recovery period.
Many thought she might never run again, certainly at international level, but she has defied the doubters by returning in style less than a year after the injury.
From halfway onwards she was poised in the lead with Pallant and Taschimowitz and with her track pedigree looked the likely winner. But still short of her best form, she faded on the final lap as Pallant, who is no slouch on the track herself of course, strode away to win by five seconds.
Britain scored 14 points to easily beat Germany (41) and Portugal (77).
Florian Carvalho of France won the under-23 men’s title with Britain’s James Wilkinson finishing strongly for silver. The Frenchman’s win was similar to Pallant’s as he stretched away on the final lap with about one kilometre to go and won, easing down, by three seconds.
At the halfway point things had looked very good for Britain, with Wilkinson and Mitch Goose at the front of the field. But Carvalho’s 3:33 1500m speed allowed him to cruise clear, while Goose dropped back to sixth and, supported by Derek Hawkins in 24th and Philip Berntsen in 38th, the GB team finished second to surprise package Norway, with Spain third and Russia fourth.
» This Thursday’s issue of Athletics Weekly will feature much more coverage from the Euro Cross, with photos of all races, in-depth reports and analysis over 11-12 pages of the magazine.