Charles Hicks and Zak Mahamed finish one-two and lead GB to men’s team gold as host nation hope Nadia Battocletti seals women’s U23 title from Megan Keith
Less than 24 hours after England lost to France in the World Cup in Qatar, British cross-country runners in Turin got some measure of revenge when they pipped France to the team title in the under-23 men’s race by just three points.
This was courtesy of Charles Hicks and Zak Mahamed finishing a brilliant one-two as Matt Stonier closed in the team in eighth as Rory Leonard and Joe Wigfield finished 11th and 13th.
Most of the athletes had watched the World Cup game in their team hotel the night before but unlike the footballers they took their chances in style on the tough, undulating course on the outskirts of Turin by breaking away emphatically from their rivals as Valentin Bresc of France took bronze.
Hicks triumphed 12 months earlier on a flatter course in Dublin and in the run-up to these championships he had won the NCAA title in Oklahoma. Mahamed, meanwhile, was a revelation as he produced an inspired run to break away with Hicks before eventually succumbing to his team-mate’s superior firepower in the finishing stages.
“This is amazing,” Hicks told AW. “It’s the affirmation of so much work. Having both the NCAA and this race come together so well is great. To get the team win as well is something else.”
Sporting a Jack Grealish-style Alice band in his hair, Hicks adapted to the challenging rollercoaster terrain to carve out an eight-second victory over Mahamed in 23:40 as Bresc finished a further 10 seconds back.
“Last year we didn’t get it done as well as we might have wanted and that really lit a fire under us,” said Hicks. “And I think you really saw that today.”
A delighted Mahamed said: “I knew I was in good shape and when I was with Charles I felt good and was keen to push the pace and run as hard as I can.”
There were mixed fortunes for Ireland, meanwhile, as Darragh McElhinney, the silver medallist behind Hicks in Dublin last year, was only 26th but the team still won bronze.
Battocletti battles back from illness to win
Nadia Battocletti produced one of the stories of the championships when she successfully defended her under-23 women’s title on home soil in Italy after a build-up beset by illness.
In second, Megan Keith ran brilliantly to take silver for Britain just 12 months after winning under-20 gold in Dublin. “If I’d somehow found the strength to pass Nadia,” she said, “I would definitely have been the villain!”
A tearful Battocletti was full of emotion after the race and she was still doing media interviews when the senior women’s race was over. The 22-year-old had mononucleosis in the summer and struggled with further illness. “I was still taking antibiotics until 10 days before this race,” she said.
Battocletti pulled away in the race with Keith and, despite doubts over her fitness, the Italian drew away from the Briton on the final uphill section and then consolidated her lead on the downhill run-in to the finish to win by 13 seconds in 19:55.
Amazingly for Battocletti, who lives in northern Italy, it was her fourth successive Euro Cross win after two under-20 titles and the under-23 victories in 2021 and now 2022.
At the finish Battocletti was hugged by her father and coach Giuliano, who led Italy to the senior men’s team gold with a seventh-place finish when the championships were first held in Italy – in Ferrara in 1998.
“Nadia was seventh in the Olympics (5000m in Tokyo),” said Edinburgh student Keith, “so today for me the silver was like a gold medal. She is at another level so to come second was my A-goal.”
In third, Alex Millard won a brilliant bronze for Britain and, along with Grace Carson in fifth, this ensured the team gold went to the GB & Northern Ireland squad ahead of Italy and France.
“I’m buzzing, I was not expecting that!” said Millard. “I didn’t think I liked hills but I seem to do well on them. It was really fun today. I loved it.”
Eloise Walker in 11th, Alice Goodall in 13th and Yasmin Marghini in 18th also ran strongly in a superb British performance.
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