December 9 - Jess Coulson won the European under-23 cross country title in Budapest today – helping the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team top the medal table for a fifth year running with a performance so relaxed that she was singing aloud for much of it.
Truly, an athlete in tune with her body.
The result was a triumph too for Coulson's coach, Mick Woods, who has guided his charge through two years of debilitating injury.
The 22-year-old Stockport athlete's achievement in defending the title won by Britain's Emma Pallant 12 months ago spearheaded a British effort that resulted in team silver.
"This has been a long time coming," said Coulson (pictured top), who finished more than 50 metres clear.
"The last time I made a GB team was five years ago.
"I put it down to my coach, Mick Woods.
"I just really worked hard and I enjoyed it out there today, I was even singing to myself on the way around.
"I just felt good.
"I got going and then didn't stop."
Another of Woods' athletes, defending junior champion Emma Gorecka, was narrowly beaten by Serbia's world 1,500 metres silver medallist Amela Terzić, with whom she exchanged the lead three times in the closing stages, but the Briton's placing helped her team win gold for a third successive year.
Team silver was secured in the senior men's race, and individual bronze medals came from United States-based Kieran Clements in the junior men's race and James Wilkinson in the under-23 men's race, while team bronze was earned for Britain by the junior and under-23 men's, and the senior women.
UK Athletics' performance director Neil Black said: "That was another outstanding team performance from our athletes in very tough conditions, and I'm very proud to have been part of it.
"I think the pressure increases year on year for these guys after the incredibly high standard set each time we attend this event, but once again they've raised their game and in doing so, we've topped the medal table for the fifth successive year.
"From Jess Coulson's individual gold to the team effort shown by the under-23 men to take bronze by a single point from Norway, that's what it's all about and I'm very proud to have been part of it; it's a very fitting end to an incredible year for athletics."
Fionnuala Britton of Ireland retained her women's senior title, finishing two seconds clear of Portugal's Ana Dulce Félix with a performance that spearheaded Ireland's retention of the team title.
Andrea Lalli of Italy took the men's senior title ahead of French athletes Hassan Chahdi and Daniele Meucci, with Britain's Thomas Farrell fourth.
Spain won the senior men's team gold ahead of Britain.
Szymon Kulka of Poland won gold in the junior men's race, ahead of Bulgaria's Mitko Tesenov, but team gold went to Russia, who also triumphed in the women's under-23 race thanks to an effort led by Liudmila Lebedeva, who finished nine seconds behind Coulson, and teammate Gulshat Fazlitdinova, who placed fourth.
Henrik Ingebrigtsen of Norway won the men's under-23 race ahead of Belgium's Soufiane Bouchikhi, with team gold going to France.
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