Ralph Street on his way to 13th in the Middle Final, photo: Fred Härtelt
The European Orienteering Championships for 2022 took place in Estonia and were for the forest disciplines. The medal races were the 4th, 6th and 7th August.
All races used the same arena, in the Põlula forest, near Rakvere, midway between Tallinn and the Russian border. For the previous European Championships, back pre-COVID in 2018 and covering more disciplines GB had a team of 17 including only one runner outside the 25-30 age group. This time Britain took 13 athletes, but it was much more slanted towards development. Our preview article on the team
GB were never going to get close to the heady heights of the recent Sprint-focused World Champs, where GB had the most successful big championships ever, with multiple top-20s, top-10s, podiums and several medals.
At these European Champs there were only two top-20 individual results, both in the middle distance with Ralph Street 13th and Grace Molloy 20th. The top GB results in the long races were Megan Carter-Davies 30th and Peter Taylor-Bray 52nd. In the forest relays the GB women were 18th and 29th, and the GB men were 34th and 36th.
A lot of athletes had a lot of trouble coping with the nature of the forest. A summary might simply be the thickness of the vegetation. One consequence was difficulty in identifying contour features, the many typical moraine features (eskers, kames, drumlins) mentioned in the details were not easy to pick out in thick vegetation with a total height difference of only 30 metres.
Peter Molloy writes (on Attackpoint)
> So yeah, it’s been a pretty hefty baptism of fire for my senior debut on some of the trickiest/roughest terrain in Europe for championship racing
In addition it was terrain that was particularly difficult for early starters, at least later runners had some tracking to help. For the long the order was set in reverse order of World Ranking, and most of the team did not have much in the way of World Ranking points. Sasha and Chloe were very early starters.
Megan Carter-Davies in the first race of the championships, the middle qualification, photo: Fred Härtelt
> Martin Regborn (Sweden) and Venla Harju (Finland) won the European Orienteering Championships (EOC) Long distance 2022 in Estonia. The courses offered exceptionally tricky orienteering where all runners struggled to find the controls and the best route choices, giving two of the outsiders the possibility to take the victories.
Terrain matters a great deal! (Also experience, coaching and preparation.) Of the big countries you would expect that a championships in Estonian forest might be most helpful for the Finns. In the European Champs Long race in 2018 Finland had just one runner in the top-20, this year they had twelve. And they won half the medals with three top-notch orienteers running well: Venla Harju, Marika Teini and Elias Kuukka.
The other medallists were Martin Regborn (gold), Eskil Kinnerberg (silver), and Tove Alexandersson (silver.) As well as Tove winning silver, in the women's race Swedish runners were 4th, 5th and 6th.
In terms of ranking points 10 of the 12 athletes had runs that were amongst their best five in the last three years, thus improving their World Ranking Score.
Joe Woodley, photo: Fred Härtelt
Grace Molloy, photo: Fred Härtelt
Peter Taylor-Bray, photo: Fred Härtelt
The championships began with qualification races for the middle distance. Four GB athletes got through to the A-finals: Megan Carter-Davies, Grace Molloy, Fiona Bunn and Ralph Street. Martin Regborn and Elias Kuukka who would win medals in the long the following day were amongst those not to qualify. After the long there was a rest day, then came the middle finals. The B finals ran after the A finals, during which B athletes were not quarantined "it would have been inhuman"!
> Scrappy but some really good bits and delighted to get a top 20 (best senior forest result and WC result). Started cautiously but got 1 and 2 fine. Very stupid moment to 3 where I thought I was at the other junction and briefly ran off the map but limited the time loss. Bit right on 4. Hit the path to 5, got caught by Kyburz and Fast just afterwards. Committed to sticking with Fast to 7 but couldn't keep contact and we hit the hill to the right. She headed too far right to 9 so I left her and rejoined with Kyburz. Basically good from there to the finish, just trying to run as hard as I could whilst staying in control.
On YouTube, two and a half minutes, thanks to Katherine Bett: InterView with Ralph Street after the Middle Final
> Albin Ridefelt (Sweden) and Simona Aebersold (Switzerland) took the gold medals in the European Orienteering Championships (EOC) Middle distance in Estonia. As in the long distance the orienteering was very tricky, and many of the pre-race favourites struggled in the bushy terrain. Seldom have we seen so many runners stopping or making mistakes on the TV controls.
The gold medallists both ran exceptionally well. In the men's it was a Swedish 1-2-3 with Anton Johansson and Gustav Bergman taking silver and bronze. In the women's it was the Estonian runner Evely Kaasiku who took the silver - a brilliant result for her. The bronze was won by Venla Harju. .
Although the leading teams ran all or mostly clean most teams had their troubles. It was a better day for the GB women than the men. The GB women were 10th nation, which is similar to Idre Fjall last year. The men were 18th nation - at Idre Fjall GB were 12th, and that was the second team as the first team mispunched. In 2018 at the European champs the men made the podium.
Women's Relay Start, photo: Fred Härtelt
Men's Relay Start, photo: Fred Härtelt
In the men's it was Norway / Sweden / Switzerland. And in fact the silver was won by Sweden's third team, with their second and first teams 4th and 5th in the results before all but a country's first finishing team are excluded. (The GB men's teams were 34th and 36th before that happened.)
In the women's it was Sweden / Czechia / Norway. Sweden were by the standards of this level, fairly comfortable winners with Lina Strand, Sarah Hagstrom and Tove Alexandersson all running very well. The silver for the Czechs had something of a similar feel to GB's silver in the Sprint Relay in Denmark: good team culture, often been close to a medal but never happened, all the team ran well.
from the IOF TV broadcast