Girl from Canada becomes youngest female cross-country champion

17-year-old Sarah Selengut wins world cross-country championship

A girl from Canada whose parents grew up racing off-road vehicles has become the youngest female world champion in the sport, defeating some of the best-known male competitors in the race.

Sarah Selengut, 17, raced against 14 rivals for the World Cross Country Championship title in Finland on Friday, with her father Yves – a two-time winner of the race – cheering her on at the finish line.

“I just never dreamed of winning [the race],” Selengut said. “I never dreamed of any of this, but it’s here now and it’s amazing.”

She also said she hoped “it won’t just be me – it’ll be somebody else”.

According to her website, Selengut grew up watching her father at races, and taking up the sport when she was four years old.

“For me, it was pretty much a [financial] burden to keep going with school, and I didn’t have friends I could run with,” she said.

“So I decided to try, and then there was just this love for it.”

Selengut finished seventh in the 2007 world cross-country championship, and then finished third in the 2013 cross-country championship in Norway.

“I really feel like I have to do a lot better,” she said of Friday’s championship race. “I’m just very motivated right now.”

Her father admitted the family initially did not fully understand his daughter’s passion for the sport.

“At first we thought she was going crazy, you know,” he said. “We were like ‘what are you doing, get off the phone with us.'”

“A lot of people who compete in cross-country say ‘it’s such a fast, dynamic sport that you can’t be serious’,” he added. “But this kid, she came to me and said ‘Dad, I want to do this and I’ll do whatever it takes.'”

On Saturday she met another girl, 17-year-old Libéléinte (Lemon), who is also a famous cross-country racer. “We’re very happy to have a girl winning,” Libéléinte said through a translator.

“It’s not easy to compete with the boys.”

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