Athletics: Britain's drive earns team gold

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BRITAIN'S CROSS-COUNTRY runners provided the domestic sport with a timely lift yesterday as they won team gold medals at the European Championships in Venlenje, Slovenia.

An individual bronze medal from Jon Brown, the 1996 champion, helped the men secure their first team title since these championships were first staged five years ago in Alnwick, Northumberland. The junior men matched that achievement thanks partly to an outstanding fifth place from Mohammed Farah, who will be eligible to compete in the Under-20 category until 2002.

Brown, now based in Vancouver, had flown in from a spell of altitude training in the United States in order to add his experience and support to the team. Although Portugal's Paolo Guerra, who won a bronze at the World Championships in Belfast in January, pulled away from him at the halfway point to create what proved to be a winning lead, taking his colleague Eduardo Henriques through into second place, Brown won the race to head the chasing pack.

"It was tough over the last lap, but I managed to get away from them," said Britain's 10,000 metres record holder, who took eighth place in Ireland earlier this year. "Obviously I'm chuffed with my placing but I'm even more delighted with the team result. That success means much more to me than my own medal." Portugal had three of their four scoring performers in the top five, but lost out on the team gold because their last man slipped to 33rd.

Britain took the title through greater consistency, with Karl Keska seventh, Dominic Bannister 11th and Keith Cullen 12th. "We may be a young team but there is a lot of experience," Brown said. "Today was a fantastic performance and I am sure it will get people motivated to achieve even more in the future. We showed what we are capable of and I'm sure there's even better to come."

The junior team captured their title to better the silver medals they won 12 months ago in Ferrara, Italy. The talented Farah was aided by Robert Maycock, Chris Thompson and Steve Vernon to earn an unexpected win over France and Ireland.

Britain's women missed out on a team bronze by one place, with Elizabeth Yelling providing the best individual placing of fourth.