Laeken Park will host the SPAR European Cross Country Championships on Sunday. Athletes from 38 countries are coming to Brussels to compete for medals at the European Cross Country Championships. Belgium will be at the start with a 40-strong delegation, including Isaac Kimeli as the biggest medal contender. Thousands of spectators will come to cheer on Europe’s best athletes on Sunday. More than 3000 tickets have already been sold. Online tickets can still be bought until the day of the event. Tickets will also be available for purchase from the ticket desk on site on Sunday.
The SPAR European Cross Country Championships are in their 29th edition this year. Belgium has welcomed Europe’s best athletes twice before: in 1996 in Charleroi and in 2008 in Brussels. Next Sunday, Brussels will once again host the European Cross Country Championships. In the senior men, we will have a new European Champion for the first time since 2021. Norwegian superstar Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the 2021 and 2022 winner, unfortunately has to miss out due to injury. As a result, the title race at Laeken Park is wide open …
Will Isaac Kimeli take gold for Belgium? Last year’s number three not only has the home advantage, but he is also in great shape and ready to compete for gold on the hilly course, the only colour still missing from his European Championship collection. But Yemaneberhan Crippa is also aiming for the highest position. The Italian already claimed the European Championship podium in 2019 and could come close again on Sunday. France’s Yann Schrub, seventh last year, will also be a tough contender. France, Italy, and Belgium – which can also count on John Heymans and Robin Hendrix – are all sending more than one top athlete into battle. Consequently, the fight for the team medals will also be fascinating to follow.
Chloé Herbiet and Lisa Rooms lead the Belgian women’s team of six. Bolstered by the home crowd, they can certainly aspire to a top 20 finish. Defending Champion Karoline Bherkeli Grøvdal will again start as top favourite. The 33-year-old Norwegian has not missed the podium once since 2015 and can grab a third consecutive gold medal on Sunday. The biggest danger will probably come from Italy, because Nadia Battocletti is an absolute moving spirit in the Azzurri team. Battocletti already topped the podium in the U23s and can now aim for a medal in the seniors.
Italy even has a third trump card in the mixed relays. Half of their quartet consists of last year’s gold team and is therefore in with a good chance. Belgium also has a lot of experience with Elise Vanderelst and Ruben Verheyden, coupled with two newcomers on the European stage. So, it will be a matter of guessing whether the home team will be able to match or surpass the bronze medal of two years ago.
Dutch top talent Laros goes for first cross country gold
In the junior categories, Niels Laros is the man to watch. The 18-year-old Dutchman made his mark last summer by setting phenomenal times on the track and competing with the world’s best as a youngster. In the cross country, Laros has yet to show any credentials, but that could change on Sunday. Denmark’s Axel Vang Christensen might be his biggest rival. Our country is already providing a remarkable performance with three brothers in one race: Casper, Mathis and Daan Lievens all managed to qualify for the junior race.
The other categories are expected to create much excitement in the absence of a declared top favourite. In any event, Charlotte Penneman is the spearhead for Belgium in the juniors given her excellent form and international experience. She will undoubtedly want to do better than her 70th-place finish last year. Yorick Van de Kerkhove and Jana Van Lent already proved in recent weeks in the U23s that they are stronger than their compatriots. They too were at the European Championships last year, finishing 23rd and 41st respectively. Van de Kerkhove might be expected to be in the top ten this time. Van Lent has also advanced and, as a senior, looks set to jump 20 places.
Be on time, come in black-gold-red and order your tickets online!
The races of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships will be preceded by youth races of the EnergyVision CrossCup on Sunday. And on Saturday, the Belgian Championship for Masters will test out the European Cross Country Championships course. So, it promises to be a busy cross-country weekend in Brussels. The organisers therefore advise all supporters to get down to Laeken Park in good time. And don’t forget to dress up in black-gold-red to give the Belgian athletes an extra boost! More than 3,000 tickets have already been sold. You can buy tickets online until Sunday. You can also buy your ticket at the box office. Children under 12 (birth year 2011 or before) can attend the European Championships for free.