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Friday 13 December 2019

Sarah on an uphill curve

World Cup winner Sarah McCormack
World Cup winner Sarah McCormack

Ireland's World Cup champion Sarah McCormack is tipped as a likely winner of the women's title at the World Mountain Running Championships, taking place in the exotic location of Villa La Angostura, Patagonia, in Argentina on Friday and Saturday.

McCormack, who is based in England's Lake District, is having her best season yet, sealing overall victory in the World Cup with a third win at the Snowdon International in Wales along with three second places in the six-race series.

She will face strong competition from Kenyan Lucy Murigi, who beat her at the final race in the World Cup series at Smarna Gora in Slovenia last month and is going for a third consecutive title.

Other contenders include British athlete Sarah Tunstall, third in the World 2017 Championships, who won the savagely tough Grossglockner mountain race in Austria and beat McCormack in the Italian round of the World Cup.

Leading the Irish challenge in the men's 14km race on an up and downhill course with 754m of climb is Zak Hannah of Newcastle and District AC who made his first appearance at a world championships three years ago when he finished 76th.

Earlier this year, he was 19th at the European Championships held in Zermatt, Switzerland.

He travelled to a number of World Cup races, ending up sixth in this year's rankings and producing his best run of the season at Snowdon, where he finished fourth. Winner that day was British athlete Andrew Douglas, who went on to win the World Cup.

Hanna and McCormack are mentioned in the international preview for the race, which must be a first for Irish mountain running - at least since the glory days of John Lenihan, world champion in 1991, and Robin Bryson, who finished fourth at this level twice and also took a world masters title.

Backing up McCormack on the Irish women's team are Kate Cronin of Raheny Shamrock AC and Harriette Robinson of Dundrum South Dublin AC.

Cronin finished an impressive eighth at her first World Championships in 2013 but several years of injury followed before her return to the Irish team for the European Championships this year. Making her first appearance in an Irish vest at the European Championships was Robinson.

Selected for the men's team are Ian Conroy of Raheny Shamrock and Eoin Flynn of Rathfarnham WSAF AC, both of them regulars on the Irish team over the past decade.

Conroy's best performance came in 2015, when the world championships were held at Snowdon in Wales and he finished 24th. Flynn returned to the Irish team last season and finished 42nd at the European Championships in Zermatt.

Also taking place in Patagonia this weekend is the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, where US-based Paddy O'Leary from Wexford and Nicola Duncan of Galway City Harriers, who lives in Edinburgh, will lead the Irish team.

Also selected are Gavin Byrne and Brian Furey of the men and Angela Speight and Becky Quinn of the women.

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