Shock win gives Yelling plenty to shout about

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The Independent Online

Hayley Yelling was as surprised as anyone after winning the European Cross-Country championships in Dublin yesterday, just a few weeks after coming out of retirement.

Yelling's shock return a month ago saw her confidently win the trial race in Liverpool, but few would have predicted she would add another European gold medal to the one she collected five years ago.

"I can't believe it, I feel great," Yelling said after recording the biggest upset in the 15-year history of the event. "I'm in shock, but I said that after Liverpool as well. I just wanted to go out hard, because I know that's how I race better, to just go out and hang on for as long as possible."

The veteran runner sped to the front of the field immediately the gun sounded and built up an early 50-metre lead and the 35-year-old schoolteacher, despite constantly slipping in the mud of Santry Park, held on to win over the 8 kilometre course.

Despite having only her Liverpool outing under her belt since retiring after last year's championships, Yelling never showed any signs of tiredness. Indeed, over the final circuit she increased her lead to beat Spain's Rosa Morato by seven seconds.

Her thrilling victory and solid backing from Freya Murray (ninth), Katrina Wootton (20th) and Sonia Samuels (21st) saw her lead the British women to the team silver medals for the fifth consecutive year behind Portugal and ahead of Spain.

In the men's race, former champion Mo Farah was carried away for medical assistance after collapsing as he crossed the line in second place to Spain's Alemayehu Bezabeh. Farah and his Ethiopia-born rival broke clear early in the 10km race and fought a close encounter until Bezabeh opened a 10-metre gap heading into the final circuit. The 26-year-old Londoner recovered to successfully get back on level terms but had no answer when Bezabeh made a decisive move.

His speedy last 500 metres, with last year's silver medallist clearly struggling, saw him open a 17-second gap with defending champion Sergiy Lebid well adrift in third.

Farah's brave performance, despite ending in disappointment, saw him lead the Great Britain men's squad to second place in the team race behind Spain with Italy third.

The younger age groups also showed medal-winning form although Steph Twell, tipped to win the women's Under-23 title, suffered an off day and was not even a team scorer.

The world 1500m junior champion finished 11th, but Jessica Sparke was an unexpected third in the 6km race behind Sultan Haydar of Turkey and Russia's Irina Sergeyeva. Sparke was followed home by Charlotte Browning (fourth), Hollie Rowland (fifth) and Stevie Stockton (10th) as Britain took team gold medals for the fourth successive year.

Mitch Goose and Ricky Stevenson finished fifth and eighth in the men's U23 competition enabling the team to win the silver medals behind France with Belgium third.

Noureddine Smail led a French one-two winning the 8km race ahead of Hassan Chahdi with Ethiopia-born Atelaw Bekele of Belgium third.

In the junior men's race, Nick Goolab snatched the silver medal from team-mate James Wilkinson a stride from the line and almost caught Belgian winner Jeroen D'Hoedt.

Their displays over the 6km course saw the young squad achieve its first team victory for eight years, beating France and Norway.

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