Photo: GB team; athletes, manager and support staff, Hollie Orr not present (Source: Kirstin Maxwell Twitter)
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Great Britain sent a team of 17 athletes to the Championships held in Ticino, Switzerland. The Champs took place from 6th May to 13th. They were brilliantly organised and ran smoothly, with large, knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowds generating a great atmosphere, particularly for Swiss achievements of which there were many.
It might be different if Graham were not injured and Megan not in her final year at University. but as it is only one, Sasha, was not in the age range 25-30. Sasha is in his first year as a senior. He ran very well at last year's Junior World Champs (JWOC). Interestingly, JWOC seems by no means an essential step to running in the top-level sprint competition at least. Of the ten Brits running in this, five didn't run at a JWOC.
As ever some athletes were satisfied with their performances, and some weren't, but overall Ed, Mark, Jim and the team are to be congratulated on an exceptionally good week for GB orienteering. Athletes were running well, the colours were being shown, they were highly visible in most of the races. Kris's medal is the best thing since 2015, and combined with Cat's and two of the relay teams getting on the podium the achievements were significant.
With nine championship races in all (six individual, three team) there were 27 medals awarded. With a tie for gold in the men's sprint ten were gold, eight were silver and nine were bronze. Home team Switzerland took 11 of these, with eight Swiss athletes winning at least one medal. Matthias Kyburz took two golds and two silvers, and Judith Wyder, back from the birth of her first child, took a gold and a silver. Sweden took five medals, including three individual ones for Tove Alexandersson - two golds and a silver. She may well have added two others had she not turned her ankle in the Middle distance causing her to be replaced in the teams for the sprint and forest relays. Norway won four, with Olav Lundanes winning three. Russia won two – both by Natalia Gemperle.
Countries winning one medal were:
GB achieved podium places in three races: Women's Middle Distance (Cat Taylor was 5th) Sprint Relay (Charlotte, Peter, Kris and Alice were 6th) Men's Relay (Kris, Peter and Ralph were 5th).
Kris had a particularly good week: the medal, taking a lead in the race for the bronze medal on leg 3 of the sprint relay, and the leading time on leg 1 of the forest relay.
It is a measure of the ambitions of the team that several members were somewhat disappointed as they felt medals had been missed, rather than being pleased with the podiums gained. In fact it was the best team outing for five years and there had been five World or European championships without a medal, so for Kris to get one was wonderful, and the podium places were a great bonus.
There were five days with championships decided. A summary of each is below:
GB had ten athletes entered, four women and six men, all with a good chance of getting through to the finals in the afternoon.
Six of the ten athletes qualified for the final, and
Kris Jones won the bronze medal in the European Championship sprint race.
Men: 22.Alasdair McLeod, 23.Peter Hodkinson, 24 Chris Smithard, 27.Ralph Street.
Women: 25.Charlotte Ward, 31.Alice Leake.
GB had ten athletes entered, four women and six men, all with a good chance of getting through to the finals on the next day.
All four women and three of the six GB men qualified for the middle distance final in tough races in steep terrain at Carona. As a mark of how tough, only one of the six Swedish men got through – two of them falling victim to injury during the race.
Cat and Jess were somewhat close to not qualifying but made it. Alan Cherry ran relatively early and was unfortunately 2 seconds out from what turned out to be the qualification time. It was the next to last starter in his heat, the Bulgarian Ivan Sirakov, who came in 14 seconds too quickly for Alan to make it. Chris Smithard and Will Gardner also missed out, whilst Sasha Chepelin, Alasdair McLeod and Ralph Street qualified.
Cat Taylor came fifth in the Championship middle distance race.
Other British Finalists: 27. Charlotte Watson, 40. Jo Shepherd, 49. Jessica Tullie.
British Finalists: 31.Ralph Street, 35.Alasdair McLeod, 45.Sasha Chepelin.
Home team Switzerland won the European Sprint Relay Championship Race. They were a comfortable minute ahead of second-placed Sweden, who in turn were a comfortably two minutes ahead of a tight finish for the bronze medal which included Alice Leake anchoring TeamGB.
Charlotte Ward, Peter Hodkinson and Kris Jones had given Alice a 25 second start for the last leg ahead of a group of four other teams. But three of the teams caught her.
This race within a race was decided by speed round the last loop. It was won by Andrine Benjaminsen of Norway (well-known to the Lillomarka group within the British squad), and GB were sixth. Alice doesn't remember the last loop. So a very well-earned place on the podium for the team, and very close to a medal.
GB were ahead of the fancied Danish and Russian teams. It was a good day out.
The racing was from an arena in the centre of the scenic village of Tesserete in Capriasca, and courses involved a lot of climb on a hillside across from the arena. There was a large holiday crowd and many many Swiss flags being waved.. The runners could be glimpsed in between buildings from time to time, and with cameras in the terrain, a large screen, a Per Forsberg commentary, and the home team running so well, it all got pretty noisy.
Photos of start and finish below: © European Orienteering Championships - Rémy Steinegger. Other photos by On The Red Line
GB had two teams in each race, and of the 12 athletes nearly all are Scots or have strong Scottish links. In the women Hollie and Jo are Scots (and both are now members of Halden SK), Jess lives in the Highlands, and the other three all went to Edinburgh University. In the men's one team could be "Scotland" with Ali and Sasha both from the Highlands and Hector married into the Highlands. In the other team Welshman Kris and Englishman Peter both now live in Scotland.
Switzerland 1 and Switzerland 2 contested the gold medal, and with only the first team from a country counting for prizes, Switzerland 2 didn't get a medal for coming second.
A sprint finish for silver was won by Sweden from Denmark. GB1 were 11th (7th country - the others ahead were Norway, Russia and Finland) and GB2 were 17th.
The gold was decided between the very strong Switzerland and Norwegian (World Champions) teams. Olav Lundanes kept Daniel Hubmann at a safe distance on the final leg.
The French took the bronze, and the Czechs came fourth.
Kris Jones (GB1) was first back from the first leg, and Peter Hodkinson kept up with the fastest teams for nearly all the second leg, ending 4th (3rd country.) From leg 3 Ralph Street brought the team in 6th (5th country.)
GB2 were 17th.
GB had six runners, three in each race.
The women had 11.3km with 680m climb. The men had 14.9km with 910m climb.
Tove Alexander won by 5 minutes - taking 81:08.
British Results: 18. Cat Taylor, 31. Jessica Tullie, 43. Hollie Orr.
British Results: 28. Hector Haines, 29. Alan Cherry, 37.Alasdair McLeod.