Graham Gristwood, in the WOC2019 Relay. credit: Rob Lines.
The British Women's team of Charlotte Watson, Megan Carter-Davies and Cat Taylor were ninth in the World Champs Relay 2019. The race was won by Sweden with Karolin Ohlsson overtaking Julia Jakob of Switzerland at the end. Russia were third.
The British Men's team of Peter Hodkinson, Graham Gristwood and Ralph Street were 17th in their race. That race was also won by Sweden, with Finland second and France third.
The Finishing LIne (credit: Philip Gristwood)
Today was the second day of the World Champs Middle Distance, a colossal step up for drama, crowd size, and sheer noise compared to Tuesday's qualification races. Wednesday's long distance finals were noticeably big and noisy: today's Middle Distance Finals even bigger and noisier. There must be every chance that tomorrow's relays will be even more intense. If Norway are in a close race for a medal expect that, as the phrase goes, "it will be so loud you can't hear yourself think".
Graham Gristwood starts the WOC long distance (credit: Philip Gristwood)
Over the last two weeks, in the middle of an Østfold forest previously unused for orienteering, the Nokian Tyres World Orienteering Championships 2019 organisation has built a spectacular arena. Today it was filled with crowds watching the classic distance in pleasant August sunshine. The 16.6km men's course was won by the Norwegian Olav Lundanes in just over 90 minutes, and the 11.7km women's race by the Swede Tove Alexandersson in 69 minutes.
Britain had two runners in each race. The men's race was first.
Peter Hodkinson, credit IOF/WOC2019
It was a qualification only day at the World Championships today - the first one since 2013. There were no medals won, no cameras in the forest, no big screen and it was all over in quite short time. So there was not the high sustained drama we look forward to for the three finals days coming up. There was however plenty of interest and good orienteering, there were nervous athletes, and there were of course individual dramas, triumphs and sadness. As Peter Hodkinson says in his interview (see below) "You can't win but you can lose". So it was perhaps more of a necessary day rather than a hugely memorable day for most of those present.
Journalist and IOF Commentator Katherine Bett, working with GB Squad Athlete Will Gardner, as "The Run In", have now published six podcast episodes. Each episode lasts approximately an hour and is all about orienteering, with an emphasis on what the top British athletes are doing. In each episode they have been joined by a guest from the British squad: so far we have heard from Kris Jones, Sasha Chepelin, Cat Taylor, Alice Leake, Peter Hodkinson and Charlotte Watson.
Oli Johnson (who was sixth) coming into the finish field of Day 3's World Ranking Race (credit: Wendy Carlyle)
A sport's World Championships aren't just about medals. They are an occasion when the sport celebrates its attraction and strengths, and shows the top level of the sport to those who take part at any level and to a wider audience.
Expect therefore that next week the International Orienteering Federation will say how many countries are taking part, and for all the competitions to have features that help make a spectacle. So for example there will be some easier controls sited with TV in mind - there will be many other tougher controls out of sight of the cameras. (The championships are carried live by Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish and Estonian National TV, as well as by Web-TV - just 10 euro for the three days.)
Nevertheless it might be interesting to think about the destination of the 18 medals.
Kangasala-Jukola Logo from the Organisation Website
The weekend of 15th/16th June is the Venla and Jukola Relays in Finland. It's both a big festival weekend - the above logo is out directing traffic on the main motorways several days beforehand - and one of the main competitive weekends of the international orienteering calendar. The relays are a mix of top-level and participation sport like the London Marathon but with a team ethos. It's a tradition, and it gets a great deal of general interest in Finland. There is also something of a link to Finnish national consciousness with it moving round the forests and its naming from the first great work of Finnish literature.
Some numbers: The competition centre, accommodation and parking takes 70 hectares. There are about 1750 tents, 450 provided by the military. 50,000 people will be in and around the competition area over the weekend.
As they say "For a good accomplishment the orienteer needs resolution, persistency and brisk sports spirit."
British Champions 2019, Photo: Rob Lines
Today is the 1st June and as the vegetation in the forests gets high the orienteering season for many of the leading British runners passes from a domestic focus to an overseas one. Most of the big domestic competitions (the "major events") have been run, and the first senior international races, in Finland, are next weekend. That is World Cup Round 1, which also includes a sprint relay in the centre of Helsinki the following Tuesday The weekend after is Jukola and Venla. These relays have a record entry of over 20,000 this year - the organisers attribute it partly to the "growth ... of fitness orienteering". In early July, test races for the World Champs take part, after which the British team will be selected. The World Champs themselves are forest disciplines only, in Norway in August, just after the Scottish 6-Days. And then, with more of a sprint focus, there are World Cup Round 3 (September, Switzerland) and 4 (October, China).