ATHLETICS: Fionnuala McCormack confirms Greenmount Cross Country bid

Greenmount contender Birtukan Fentealemu'.
Greenmount contender Birtukan Fentealemu'.

Double European Cross Country champion Fionnuala McCormack is the latest big name to sign up for the Greenmount Cross Country International at Antrim on January 16.

The 31-year-old from Wicklow won the European title in both 2011 and 2012 and has finished fourth on three other occasions. She recently led the Irish side to the bronze medals in Hyers, France.

McCormack has twice triumphed in the Greenmount spectacular. She came first in 2012 ahead of last year’s European winner Gemma Steel and then struck gold again one year later in front of Louise Damen of England.

She was a finalist in the Olympics steeplechase in 2008 and competed in the London Games at both 5000 and 10000. She has qualified for the Rio Marathon with her time of 2:33:15.

Defending women’s champion Birtukan Fentealemu of Ethiopia is also confirmed for Greenmount and won last year by 16 seconds from Steph Twell, who was the first winner at Greenmount back in 2009.

The Ethiopian girl is a former world junior steeplechase record holder and was a finalist at the 2011 Worlds. She clocked 9:24.91 this year ranking 15th.

With European under 23 winner Louise Carton from Belgium and two more Ethiopians Belaynesh Oljira and Etagegu Woldu already announced, the women’s race is shaping up to be a real thriller.

Defending men’s champion Thomas Ayeko of Uganda has already been confirmed for the International, which is one of only 12 events to have an IAAF World Cross Country permit.

The event is supported by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.