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Lebid targets 10

Serhiy Lebid - European Cross Country Legend

Serhiy Lebid – European Cross Country Legend

The word legend is used too often in sport but when the name of Serhiy Lebid is mentioned alongside the SPAR European Cross Country Championships then there is no doubt it is the correct description.

Lebid is now 37 and he has won the European cross country title on a staggering nine occasions.

But on Sunday December 9, do not expect the Ukrainian to be sitting in the dry of his home, slippers on, maybe wondering what is happening in Budapest.

Instead, Lebid is ready to add another chapter to his incredible relationship with this event by bidding for crown number 10.

Since 1994, Lebid is the only athlete to have competed in every European cross country event and since last month he has been meticulously planning for another crack at the title.

A year ago he dropped out for the first time in the history of the event at around 7.5km of the 10km race in Velenje, Slovenia.

He said then: “I felt I could not improve, I was, at that time, running at around 15th or 16th position. The podium was too far away for me.”

He had been injured in the build-up to the race and his preparations had been hit because of too much snow at his base in southern Russia.

Now he has been training in both Evpatoria in the Ukraine and has moved to Kislovodsk, a city in Russia’s North Caucasus region.

“In October I began my special preparation in a training camp in Evpatoria and now I’m training in Kislovodsk, (which is) my annual altitude preparation before the champs,” Lebid told EME News.

“Last year I couldn’t make all the necessary work because of cold and snowy weather. This year everything is going according to my training plans.

“I’m feeling great and have no problems with injuries. There is no sense for me to come to Budapest just as one of the participants. I have to be in my greatest shape to have ability to fight for my 10th gold medal.

“If everything goes right, I’ll try to do it.”

He will not run before the Championships as he looks to add to his amazing record of victories which began in Ferrara in Italy in 1998.

He did not triumph again until 2001 in Thun in Switzerland, beginning a run of success where he was crowned champion every year until 2005.

Since 2007 he has won the title on three occasions, the last being back in Portugal, in Albufeira in 2010.

The cross country has been so much his domain. He won silver in the 2001 World Cross Country Championships in Ostend in 2001 while the only time he has made the podium at a major senior track event was when winning bronze at the European Athletics Championships in Munich in 2002.

But it is the SPAR European Cross Country Championships for which he will always be associated.

He said: “It’s a race which established my name more than 10 years ago.

“It will be a sad day when I can’t run in it any longer so I want to keep being on the start line for as long as possible.”

And keep that legend roaring on.

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