Fionnuala Britton facing a battle to reclaim Greenmount title
Double European cross country champion Fionnuala Britton will face one of the strongest fields ever assembled in the Province in the Greenmount Cross Country International at Antrim on January 4.
This IAAF event, sponsored by Antrim Borough Council and Sport NI, will now feature not only two times Greenmount winner Britton but also Great Britain's recently crowned European silver medallist Gemma Steel as well as European u-23 bronze medallist Charlotte Purdue.
Purdue, who won at Greenmount in 2011, will join a star line-up which also includes Bahrain's Maryam Jamal, who has won two world titles over 1500 metres and is the bronze medallist from the London Olympics.
A few days ago in Belgrade, Britton was bitterly disappointed when she narrowly failed to achieve a hat-trick of European cross country victories.
The race was won by Sophie Duarte of France with Steel snatching silver, a mere six seconds ahead of fourth placed Britton. Steel said it was nice to secure her first victory over Fionnuala.
The Charnwood woman is currently in the form of her life following a series of personal bests in road races this year.
Britton will however be determined to turn the tables at the Greenmount venue where she had a seven seconds winning margin over Steel in 2012.
However, both athletes will need to be wary of Aldershot's Purdue, who is determined to make up for a nightmare two-year period out of the sport because of stress fractures.
She was disappointed at only gaining a bronze medal in the u-23 race in Belgrade and would like nothing better than another victory at Greenmount to follow her win over Louise Damen nearly three years ago.
The anticipated large Greenmount crowd will also be closely watching Bahrain's Jamal to see if she can transfer her world class track credentials to the country stage.
The 29-year-old just lost out on gold over 1,500 metres in the London Olympics when she was beaten by two Turkish athletes, one of whom had previously served a drugs suspension.
Two Kenyan athletes returning to Greenmount are Magdalene Masai, who was third a year ago, and Eunice Kales, who was fifth. Belgium international Almensch Belete is also racing.
Previous winners in the 36-year history of this international event have included Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, Brendan Foster, John Treacy, Paula Radcliffe, Fionnuala Britton and Paul Tergat.