One of this year's trophies, from the World Championships Bulletin-4
On Wednesday 12th July the racing in the 2023 World Champs (WOC) begins. The Champs are at Flims-Laax in the mountain canton of Graubünden in Switzerland. The competition will be top-notch and the scenery will be stunning.
From the setting you can tell it's a forest year, so the formats are long (classic), middle and relay. The pattern of alternating years of sprint and forest is now settling in after the disruption of COVID. The racing on the 12th is qualification for the middle distance. The long is the day after. The middle finals and relays are at the weekend. The finals will be covered by the usual orienteering live services, some free of charge, the Web-TV for a modest fee. We plan to report all days.
In recent years we have been able to give a British angle during the racing via Twitter, assuming people will be following the main live services, and those interested could see the pictures and short videos whether they had a Twitter account or not. Because of a recent change by Twitter an account is now needed to view content. We may therefore emphasise our write-ups here, using YouTube for publishing interviews.
Great Britain has named a team of nine athletes, four women and five men, but has not said who is running which race. We have a short intro and picture for each athlete below, and you can click on names for more about them.
The team did not include Hector Haines. He did run in last year's World Cup Round in Switzerland, but did not run any selection races this year. Hector has run in nine previous World Champs, with his highest place being fourth in the relay in 2016. He has tackled the middle distance three times (best results 10th and 12th), and the long seven times, with three results in top-20.
All those in the team have run a World Champs before except Joshua Dudley, whose entry in the British Orienteering Athlete Database has had “Swiss 2023” in answer to the question “World Cup Debut?” for a couple of years. Well done Joshua!
On The Red Line thinks Swiss terrain will be something all the athletes have experience of – which is not to say that makes steep climbs at a height of 600-2000m any easier.
Megan, Jo and Ralph have 18 previous WOCs between them. The other six team members have six.
The @GBRorienteering twitter feed carried news of Megan, Grace and Peter attending the Five Days of Italy Meeting at the beginning of July. Tweet about Five Days of Italy from British Orienteering. Megan was first in W21E on all five days.
Megan at World Cup Round 1 this year, photo: On The Red Line
The World Sprint Orienteering Champion last year was 6th in the long race in 2021. This may be seen as her breakthrough result internationally, as last year she won three medals at the World Champs, which were in the sprint formats. Megan has taken time off to prepare for these championships, including spending some time at altitude.
Grace at the European Champs in Estonia last year, photo: Fred Hartaelt
Grace has spent the academic year in America so has not run much orienteering. She ran well in the first middle test race in early June, and was 17th on leg 1 of Venla (for the Kalevan Rasti second team.) Last year Grace gained a top-20 in the European Champs.
Jo at World Cup Round 1 this year, photo: On The Red Line
In five WOCs since 2016 Jo has reliably helped to keep the GB women in Division 1 of the country table including a top-20 in the middle and results of 21st, 30th and 31st in the long.
Cecilie at World Cup Round 1 this year, photo: On The Red Line
Cecilie was leg 1 in the relay team at the World Games that got a bronze medal.
She has finished in almost the same time as Jo in two recent big forest races. In last year's World Cup Final round, in Switzerland, she and Jo were 45th and 46th. In this year's World Cup Round 1 long race in Norway they were 50th and 51st. The latter was a slightly longer race as the transition to equal winning times for women and men began. The race was won in 82 minutes by Tove Alexandersson.
Ralph at World Cup Round 1 this year, photo: On The Red Line
The most experienced athlete in the GB team, Ralph took his first trip for training at altitude last winter. He only started the middle test races, being fastest British runner in the first and retiring in the second after going over on an ankle.
Peter Taylor-Bray runs in at this year's British, photo: Wendy Carlyle
Peter is this year's British long champion. He only ran the long test race.
Alastair at World Cup Round 1 this year, photo: On The Red Line
Alastair has just completed the first year of a two year masters course at the Norwegian Technical University in Trondheim. He has been running for the orienteering Club NTNUI, with strong runs at TioMila and Jukola. He was quickest British runner in the second middle test race.
Will runs in at the JK this year, photo: On The Red Line
Will won the JK Sprint and was second in the British Sprint and Middle Champs this year. He ran the World Cup Final races last year, and all the test races in Switzerland, but is perhaps as well-known for his relay running, running with the Swedish club Lidingo and recently anchoring some successful Octavian Droobers teams.
Joshua at World Cup Round1 this year, photo: On The Red Line
At this year's JK Joshua won the JK Middle race and was second overall behind Sasha Chepelin. He was the quickest British runner at the long test race in Switzerland in early June.
This is a forest World Champs not a sprint one, so worth a reminder of what may be likely targets of the GB athletes in the individual races.
There have been five forest World Champs since the home championships in Scotland in 2015. In 2015 Cat Taylor was in the top-6 for both long and middle, Hector Haines and Graham Gristwood were in top 20 for both long and middle, and Jessica Tullie (as she then was) was top-20 in the middle.
In those five most recent forest World Champs, the ones since Scotland, GB has had one top-6 (podium) place – Megan Carter-Davies had that great run in the long distance in Czechia two years ago.
A still from the Web-TV
There have been no other top10 results, but twelve top-20s, and also three 21sts in 2019.
Last year there wasn't a forest World Champs, it was a year for a forest European Champs. They were in Estonia and there were top-20 performances from Grace and Ralph.
In summary, World Championships are the most difficult races to do relatively well in - they are the big deal, and they are seriously competitive. The best athletes in the World focus on this more than on anything else.
Evely Kaasiku conducts a post-race interview, photo: On The Red Line
Just after the finish line is an area where athletes are interviewed after their race. At World Cup Round 1 in Norway earlier this year there were four permanent cameras there, each with a headset to provide the questions and hear the answers. Later there were individual journalists. The cameras were for the IOF Web-TV broadcast in English, the Arena production, Norwegian National TV, and Swedish National TV. That was just a World Cup Round. There will be much more going on in Switzerland as it's the World Champs.
Nearly all of the top orienteers will run at the World Champs., Indeed they will have been considering them in making their training and competition plans since at least the last forest champs in 2021. (Some athletes have already visited terrain because it is relevant for 2025.)
World Rankings are used to decide the start order for the long races – best starts last. There are separate rankings for forest and sprint, and the forest rankings provide a good indication of who are the strongest runners.
Three GB athletes have top 50 rankings: Megan Carter-Davies, Ralph Street and Grace Molloy. There are three more with rankings in the top 100: Jo Shepherd, Cecilie Andersen and Hector Haines.
GB athletes have however shown they are good at targetting a World Champs.
Not all of the top ranked runners make the Championships because of retirement, injury or, for runners from the big nations, because they may not be selected. This year the woman ranked 8, Karolin Ohlsson (3 x WOC medals) has not made the Swedish team, and the man ranked 9, Magne Daehli (6 x WOC medals) has not made the Norwegian team.
You will know that orienteering is “a big experience game” and there are a lot of very good, very experienced athletes from other countries.
The “big four”, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, have most of the best orienteers in the World, and so win of the order of 80% of World Champs forest medals.
Fortunately countries are limited in how many runners can be entered in each race.
They can enter three runners in each middle race, and one, two or three runners in each long race, depending on which “division” the country is in. The division is a measure of how good the top runners are compared to those of other countries. Eight countries can enter three runners and it has always been the case that the big four have been amongst those eight (it's a different eight for each sex). In addition, the current World and European Champions (and the other regional champions) have “personal places”.
World Champions Tove Alexandersson and Kasper Fosser.
European Champions: Simona Aebersold and Albin Ridefeldt
World Champions Tove Alexandersson and Matthias Kyburz.
European Champions: Venla Harju and Martin Regborn
Competing for the top-20 are all or virtually all of the runners from the “big four” orienteering countries – there will be 4 x 3 of them, plus usually one or two with personal places for being World or European Champion– so 13 or 14 athletes in all. Also vieing for the top-20 are the best runners from other countries who can get close at least to the weaker runners from the big four – typically another ten or so athletes.
For example this year in the women's races one might expect these to include Teresa Janosikova and Denisa Kosova of Czechia, Evely Kassiku of Estonia, Sandra Grosberga of Latvia, Alexandra Hornik and Hanna Wiesniewska of Poland, Isia Basset and Cecile Calandry of France, Carina Polzer of Austria, and Miri Thrane Oedum of Denmark. Part of the charm of the championships of course is newer names appearing.
So to gain a top-20 it is necessary to mix it with some of the runners from the big four, and the best runners from other countries. And WOC races tend to be high difficulty, so probably an athlete needs to be consistently competing at that sort of level.
To get top-10 requires being faster than nearly all of the runners from outside the big four, plus half the runners from the big four countries.
The long (or classic) races are on Thursday 13th, from 8:00am UK-time.
The middle finals are on Saturday 15th, from 9:30 UK-time.
The middle qualification races are in the morning of Wednesday 12th. These do not get so much attention from the media but we expect to cover them. Top 15 qualify from each of three heats. It is usual in the forest for the big orienteering countries' runners to all qualify (in contrast to sprint discipline qualification races.)
Several top athletes are just running either the long or the middle (as well as running the relay at the end of the Championships). Obviously this is to improve their chances of getting the result they would like in the single race..
GB has not announced who is running what. With a team of five men and four women, and two men and three women places for the long, perhaps just Megan and one of the other women will be GB athletes running both disciplines this year.