Cross Country Worlds: Gemma Steel leads GB team in China

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Gemma Steel
Britain's Gemma Steel won her first individual European cross-country title in December 2014
IAAF World Cross Country Championships
Venue: Guiyang, China Date: 28 March Coverage: Live 03:50-07:25 GMT on BBC Red Button and sport website; 16:00-17:05 BBC Two highlights; with reports on the BBC Sport website

British runners are 'narrowing the gap' on world-leading Kenyans, says European cross country champion Gemma Steel.

Paula Radcliffe was the last Briton to win the event - back in 2002 - with Kenyan athletes claiming the women's title at each of the last four events.

Steel wins European Cross Country gold

Steel, 29, leads a six-strong GB teamexternal-link into the World Championships in Guiyang, China, on Saturday.

"The Kenyans do dominate but we are catching them up because of advances in technology," Steel told BBC Sport.

Steel, who was 31st at the last World Championships in 2013, has been training in a sport laboratory in Loughborough which mimics high altitude.

It is seen as a cheaper alternative to moving athletes to overseas high altitude training bases before events.

"It means we can compete with Kenyans and Ethiopians so they don't have as much of an advantage."

Lord Coe, vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), has spoken about his desire to have Cross Country included in future Olympic Games.external-link

British World Cross Country elite squad
Andrew ButchartRhona Auckland
Dewi GriffithsGemma Steel
Jonny Hay
Charlie Hulson

It is currently not included in the Games' programme and it meant Steel fell outside of the criteria for UK Sport funding.

That changed last year with British Athletics coaches spotting her potential for success in Olympic disciplines.

"I would be over the moon if cross country made it into the Olympics," she said.

World Cross Country's greatest moments

"But Rio 2016 is on the agenda with potentially the 10k or even the marathon, but I'm still very inexperienced so I'll need to build up my strength and confidence."

Steel is joined in the squad by Rhona Auckland, who is competing for the first time since winning European U-23 Cross Country gold shortly before Christmas.

The Scottish (Andrew Butchart), Welsh (Dewi Griffiths) and English (Charlie Hulson) national cross country champions make up the men's squad, alongside Jonny Hay.