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Nick Griggs wins European Cross Country bronze and helps Ireland land U20 team gold

Griggs (centre) secured under-20 individual bronze as 2021 champion Denmark’s Axel Christensen ran down Dutch favourite Niels Laros in the closing stages in Brussels
Location: Brussels, Belgium Date: Sunday 10 December
Coverage: Watch live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website & BBC Sport app from 11:15 GMT.

Nick Griggs secured a brave bronze medal in the men’s under-20 race at the European Cross Country Championships as he helped Ireland land team gold.

From early on in Brussels, the race turned into a three-way battle between Dutch star Niels Laros, Denmark’s 2021 winner Axel Christensen and Griggs.

The Irishman, dramatically pipped for gold last year, dropped back on the final lap in the muddy conditions.

Laros looked a certain winner but was passed by Christensen on the run-in.

The 18-year-old Dutch star clocked a national 1500m record of 3:31.25 when finishing 10th at this year’s World Championships but Christensen, who earned a 25-second victory in the race in Dublin two years ago, again showed his cross country pedigree as he ran down the favourite in the closing 100 metres.

Griggs, who had collapsed into the mud at the recent Irish Championships when having a big lead, maintained his form impressively over the closing stages to comfortably hold on on bronze as he was 15 seconds ahead of fourth-placed Swede Karl Ottfalk.

His run also helped the Irish pip Great Britain for the team gold by two points after Niall Murphy’s ninth and Jonas Stafford’s 10th places.

Nick Griggs (second from left) celebrates with Irish team-mates Niall Murphy, Seamus Robinson, Harry Colbert, Jonas Stafford and Shane Brosnan after they clinched under-20 team gold in Brussel
Griggs’ individual bronze helped Ireland land team gold in the men’s under-20 event

The Tyrone lad clocked 16 minutes and 24 seconds which left him 15 seconds behind Christensen, who edged out Laros by one second.

City of Derry’s Seamus Robinson was also part of the gold-winning Ireland team as he was his country’s fourth-best finisher in 26th spot.

In the opening women’s under-20 race, East Down’s Anna Gardiner, who won at the recent Irish Championships, produced a superb run to finish as her country’s leading competitor in seventh place.

Her performance helped Ireland finish fifth in the team standings.

McCormack extends appearance record to 18

The Brussels championships will see Ireland’s twice women’s champion Fionnuala McCormack extend her appearance record at the event to 18 as she competes only a week after securing qualification for her fifth Olympics by running a 2:26.19 marathon in Valencia.

You have to go back to 2011 and 2012 for McCormack’s triumphs and while she may not be able to stay with the likes of three-in-a-row seeking Norwegian Karoline Grovdal and Italy’s Nadia Battocletti, a high finish from the redoubtable Wicklow athlete could see the Irish women repeat their team medal achievement from 12 months ago when they clinched bronze.

Tyrone twins Eilish and Roisin Flanagan were part of that team success last year when they finished 11th and 12th and are again part of an Irish senior women’s squad that also includes Armagh athlete Fionnuala Ross.

Other Northern Irish athletes include Callum Morgan and North Belfast’s Matthew Lavery competing in the men’s under-23 race.

With Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s hopes of securing a third successive triumph undone by a back injury, Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli and Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa, a twice under-20 winner and 2022 European 10,000m champion, look to be favourites in the senior men’s event.

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