UKA endurance coach Terrence Mahon positive ahead of Sunday’s World Cross Country Championships
There’s no doubt that African dominance is set to continue when the IAAF World Cross Country Championships return to the Polish city of Bydgoszcz on Sunday.
However, the British team can still very much make their presence felt. On paper Emelia Gorecka and the junior women appear to be the best bet for British success and although 19-year-old Gorecka will be hoping to break up the African stranglehold on the premier positions in the first race of the day, UK Athletics endurance coach Terrence Mahon believes he also has another card up his sleeve in the form of the senior women’s team.
Indeed, the senior women could have an outside chance of capturing a medal in the team race, with National and Inter-Counties winner Louise Damen and former European junior cross-country champion Steph Twell in the squad along with Elle Baker, Lauren Howarth, Gemma Steel and Emily Wicks.
“The junior women are a strong team and did really well at the European Cross,” recognises Mahon. “But our dark horse was our senior women’s team. They may not have the firepower right up front but at the Euro Cross we had such a tight cluster that it was a pretty impressive team in terms of the team scoring.
“If we can replicate that then I think the senior women could do quite well as well.”
The wintry conditions in Bydgoszcz could also work in the British teams’ favour. Organisers have taken to laying fresh soil on the course earlier this week to try to combat the snow underfoot, to which women’s marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe, who won the junior women’s World Cross title in 1992 before success in the senior women’s event in 2001 and 2002, tweeted: “They should just leave the course as it is and how Mother Nature intended.”
Senior men’s team member Steve Vernon agreed, tweeting: “Tell them to keep the snow there..us Brits revelled in it at the Europeans!”, as did Mahon, who told AW: “A lot of the kids we have coming on this team are repeats from the European Cross in Budapest and you see what they had to run in at Liverpool and Birmingham. Those courses were every bit as muddy and challenging as what we’ll see here.
“Obviously the snow and the cold may be a little factor but I think if the conditions are good enough to run on top of I think they’re aware of what they need to do.”
Vernon is joined on the senior men’s team by Frank Tickner, Phil Nicholls, Mike Skinner and Jonathan Taylor. Without the likes of Mo Farah and reigning National cross country champion Keith Gerrard, the team may well also feel the absence of Andy Vernon and James Wilkinson, who both did not wish to be considered for selection, which poses the question as to why so many senior British men seem to have been slightly disinterested in the event this year.
“I think this year is a particularly unique year being post-Olympic,” commented Mahon. “The highs of what Mo did does take some time to recover and as two time Olympic champ he doesn’t want to show up if he’s not totally ready to go.
“World Cross is a phenomenally hard event so you do have to be ready to run. With that being said, I think some of the guys who are opting out at this point in time aren’t doing so because they don’t like cross country. It’s just that they’ve got to do other specific preparations towards what they’re aiming for at the end of the year, whether that’s running a marathon or the track or so on.”
The absence of some of the perhaps more prominent figures is not a concern, he added, commenting that “certain events just don’t always fit and that has been the case for some of the kids this year.”
» An in-depth preview to the World Cross Country Championships can be found in this week’s AW, out March 21, while a shorter online preview can be found here. The action will be televised on BBC2 & HD from 12.00-2.05pm as well as on British Eurosport from 12.15-2pm. Follow @AthleticsWeekly on twitter and grab a copy of the March 28 issue of AW for in-depth coverage from Bydgoszcz.