European Athletics has announced that the 2011 SPAR European Cross Country Championships winners Fionnuala Britton of Ireland and Belgium’s Atelaw Bekele have been voted as the European Athletes of the Month for December.
Kilkoole A.C’s Britton just missed out on a medal in Portugal in 2010 but made sure there was no repeat in Velenje when she ran away with the race from the half-way mark and was never seriously threatened, clinching Ireland’s second senior women’s gold medal in the history of these championships. This is but one of several awards that have come Britton’s way in recent months .
Bekele also romped away with the title in a manner reminiscent of the great Gaston Roelants. It was a shock for Bekele who only expected to figure in the top 15, and also a shock for the rest of Europe who could only sit back and hope he blew up. For their commanding performances in Velenje, Britton and Bekele have been voted as European Athletes of the Month for December.
Great Britain’s Emma Pallant, who won the under 23 race in Velenje after making a decisive move with one kilometre remaining, finished second in the women’s poll. Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix, who finished second behind Britton in the senior women’s race in Velenje and followed it up with a superb run to win at the traditional Sao Silvestre do Lisboa over 10km on 31 December, was voted third.
In the men’s poll, Frenchman Florian Carvalho, who won the under-23 gold in Velenje with a thoroughly dominating performance, was voted second. Russia’s Dmitriy Starodubtsev, who showed outstanding early form indoors when he cleared 5.90m in Chelyabinsk on 29 December to go equal ninth on the European indoor all-time list, finished third.
European Athletics’ monthly poll received overwhelming support from thousands of athletics fans and media alike this month from across the continent.
The European Athlete of the Month initiative was launched in January 2007 and is designed to recognise outstanding performers at all levels of the sport in Europe. A male and female winner each month is named and featured on the European Athletics website.
Selections are based on votes by the public, media and a panel of European Athletics experts – each counting for 33.3 percent of the final vote. No athlete who has previously served a two-year doping ban can be nominated for or win the European Athlete of the Month award.