Gemma Steel wins European Cross Country gold in Bulgaria

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GB women dominate at European Cross Country Championships

Gemma Steel led home a one-two with Kate Avery in the women's race as Great Britain topped the medals table at the European Cross Country Championships.

Avery, Steel and team-mate Steph Twell were part of the leading pack in frosty Bulgaria, before Steel won in a sprint finish.

Rhona Auckland, 21, also won individual gold in the women's under-23 race.

It is the second year running that Britain have won nine medals across the six race categories.

Polat Kemboi Arikan edged Kenya-born team-mate Ali Kaya in the men's race as Turkey won team gold, while Ross Millington came fifth as Britain finished in the same position.

British former European Cross Country gold medallist Paula Radcliffe:
"These conditions have been an extreme leveller. Where you can make up distances on the track you can't on surfaces like this."

Arikan and Kaya were both timed at 32 minutes 19 seconds, with Ethiopia-born Spain runner Alemayehu Bezabeh recording 32:30.

Millington finished in 33 minutes precisely, while British team-mate Adam Hickey was ninth in 33:19.

Rhona Auckland
Scotland's Auckland took the lead with one lap to go on her way to gold in the under-23 race

The medals in the senior men's race were virtually decided on the first of the eight laps on a mixture of ice and mud beneath the snow capped mountains of Samokov, as the Africa-born trio pulled significantly clear of the field.

On the final lap, Arikan and Kaya stretched ahead of defending champion Bezabeh, who returned from a two-year doping ban to win in Belgrade last year.

Steel, 29, had won bronze in 2011 and silver last year at the same event but went one better this time around after edging a tussle with compatriot Avery, 23, with both timed at 28 minutes 27 seconds.

"What an amazing race. You could see how hard both girls were working and just how much it meant. They gave it everything they had," said British distance runner Paula Radcliffe, a previous individual and team gold medallist at this event.

GB medals in Belgrade
Gold - Gemma Steel, women's senior raceSilver - Kate Avery, women's senior race
Gold - GB, women's senior team Silver - GB, men's under-23 team
Gold - Rhona Auckland, women's under-23 raceSilver - GB, women's under-23 team
Gold - GB, women's junior team Bronze - Lydia Turner, women's junior race
Silver - Jess Judd, women's junior race

"Exciting times are ahead for Gemma as she moves head to the marathon. I'm really intrigued to see what she can do over the marathon distance in the future.

"She's at the right time in her career. You have to really want to tackle it and go for it."

Jessica Judd of Great Britain in action during the Junior Women's Race
Jess Judd took silver in the junior race ahead of team-mate Lydia Turner

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