Team Captain Andrew Butchart (coach: Derek Easton) was speaking at the press conference today ahead of Sunday’s European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy.
With the British Athletics team topping the medal table for the last 13 years, they have a strong record at the Championships against Europe’s best endurance athletes. Butchart was confident that the whole squad would do the country proud at the event.
Speaking on leading the British team, he said: “It is a great honour – it has been a good year and finishing it as team captain is a great way to end it. We are here to win as individuals and as a team – if I can get a medal for the team, I would be over the moon. Great Britain has topped the medal table for the past 13 years and we hope to do that again.”
The Central AC athlete was quick to comment on the importance of this event in his preparations ahead of a year that includes the IAAF World Championships London 2017 next summer.
“Cross Country is really important for younger athletes and the top senior athletes. It builds a lot of strength which is needed ahead of the summer season. Summer starts in March until August/September so you have to make sure you are on it for a long period of time. Cross country builds that strength so I love to do this event and do my best for my country.”
Butchart will lead a strong senior men’s team which includes four Olympians alongside Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins), Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) and Ross Millington (Steve Vernon) with Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) and Ben Connor (Spencer Duval) adding fire power to the squad.
This will be preceded by the 8.1km senior women’s race which includes two former European Cross champions, 2014 gold medallist Gemma Steel (Rob Denmark) and triple junior champion Steph Twell (Mick Woods). After winning team gold for the last three years, they will have their eyes on the top prize once again.
Last year’s U23 champion Jonny Davies (Rob McKim) returns to the fold in the race once again, looking to replicate his stunning performance for Hyeres 12 months ago which saw him become the first British male to win that particular title in the competitions history.
2014 U20 silver medallist Jess Judd (Mick Judd) makes her first appearance in the U23 age group alongside an impressive line-up which includes Rebecca Murray (Alex Stanton) who finished third in the senior/U23 race at the trials at the Liverpool Cross Challenge.
Harriet Knowles-Jones (Paul Roden) enjoyed one of her finest hours on the south coast of France last December when she won silver at the Championships in the junior women’s race. She will be one of the key athletes to watch out for in Chia as will Victoria Weir (Simon Anderson), who claimed the victory over Knowles-Jones in Liverpool last month, and earns her first British vest this weekend. Sadly, Hannah Nuttall (John Nuttall) has had to withdraw from the junior women’s race due to illness.
The junior men’s race includes SportsAid’s one-to-watch winner Alex Yee (Kenneth Pike) and Mahamed Mahamed (Peter Haynes) who were part of the bronze medal winning team last year. They will be seeking similar success over the 6.1km course on Sunday.
Live coverage of the 2016 European Cross Country Championships can be seen between 09:10-13:00 on the BBC Red Button on Sunday 11 December. Alternatively, highlights are on at 16:00-17:00 on BBC Two on the same evening.
The British Athletics team for the European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy on Sunday 11 December 2016:
Andrew Butchart (Derek Easton)
Ben Connor (Spencer Duval)
Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans)
Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins)
Ross Millington (Steve Vernon)
Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau)
Charlotte Arter (James Thie)
Katrina Wootton (Harvey Rose)
Emily Hosker-Thornhill (Mick Woods)
Gemma Steel (Rob Denmark)
Steph Twell (Mick Woods)
Pippa Woolven (Luke Gunn)
William Christofi (David Bedwell)
Ellis Cross (Mick Woods)
Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim)
Patrick Dever (Andy Bibby)
Alex George (Paul de-Camps)
Alex Short (Phillip O’Dell)
Jessica Judd (Mick Judd)
Rebecca Murray (Alex Stanton)
Georgina Outten (Andrew Walling)
Mari Smith (William Alan Winter)
Charlotte Taylor (Helen Lehman-Winters)
Alice Wright (Joe Franklin)
William Fuller (George Gandy)
Josh Kerr (Joe Franklin)
Mahamed Mahamed (Peter Haynes)
Sam Stevens (Alan Maddocks)
Paulos Surafel (Craig Winrow)
Alex Yee (Kenneth Pike)
Gemma Holloway (Brenda Stone)
Harriet Knowles-Jones (Paul Roden)
Phoebe Law (Mick Woods)
Hannah Nuttall (John Nuttall) *
Amelia Quirk (Beverly Kitching)
Victoria Weir (Simon Anderson)