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Kaya, Can make 1-2 for Turkey

Kaya, Can make 1-2 for Turkey

Turkey took gold and silver in both of the senior races at the European Cross Country Championships in the Italian village of Chia with Aras Kaya and Yasemin Can taking top honours on Sunday (11).

The pace in the senior men’s 9.94km race was aggressive from the outset. Kaya and compatriot Polat Kemboi Arikan were joined by Spain’s Ilias Fifa and British duo Andrew Butchart and Callum Hawkins as the quintet formed an early lead pack.

European 5000m champion Fifa was the first to fall off the pace and eventually joined the chase pack. Butchart drifted away from the leaders about five minutes later, but managed to stay ahead of his pursuers while Hawkins, Kaya and Arikan were out in front.

Arikan appeared to push the pace going into the penultimate lap, but still had Hawkins and Kaya for company. France’s Florian Carvalho, meanwhile, broke away from the chase pack and seemed to have Butchart in his sights, but he dramatically faded on the last lap.

Kaya and Arikan managed to open up a gap on Hawkins on the final lap. The two Turks ran together for most of the last lap before Kaya kicked with less than a minute to go, striding clear to win in 27:39.

Arikan placed second in 27:42, while Hawkins took third place in 27:49. With Butchart and Andy Vernon taking fourth and fifth, Britain secured the team title ahead of Spain and Turkey.

“I felt very well in my training, so I decided to compete here and it was worth it,” said Kaya, the European steeplechase silver medallist. “I thought it was going to be windy but after two or three laps I was OK.”

Having won the 5000m and 10,000m titles at the European Championships earlier this year, Turkey’s Yasemin Can secured her third continental crown of 2016 by winning the women’s 7.97km race in Chia.

Can and teammate Meryem Akda established a lead after just one kilometre and they continued to extend their advantage as the laps ticked by, leading by 34 seconds by the five-kilometre mark.

Akda began to fade, though, leaving Can on her own out in front to forge ahead. Further behind, Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal, Romania’s Ancuta Bobocel, Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack and Britain’s Steph Twell were engaged in a battle for third place.

Can went on to cross the line in 24:46 to win by 10 seconds from her compatriot. Having kicked ahead of her opponents with 500 metres remaining, Grovdal secured the bronze medal in 25:26 with Bobocel finishing fourth and McCormack fifth.

With two other women in the top 20, Turkey took team gold ahead of Britain and Romania.

“Victory is a nice birthday present,” said Can, who turns 20 today. “The only complication was a slight wind. The race was important for me but I will focus more on the track events.”