Women's Relay Presentation, from the IOF Internet TV Broadcast
The World Cup Round 2 at Idre Fjäll in Sweden did a good job of testing the best orienteers and in beautiful wilderness forest. There was a long race on Thursday 12th, a middle on Saturday 14th, and Sunday was forest relays. Running times were often a bit longer than expected.
There were challenges throughout the races, mental, technical and physical. In particular, some of the hardest navigation problems came later in courses, after big climbs or stretches of featureless forest slope, and often where visibillity decreased as spruce supplanted pine. We saw runners get close to controls and not see the kite, so assume that many were set low. Any faster runners who managed an error-free run did well, and amidst many smaller errors there were some big, spectacular and unexpected mistakes from very good orienteers. The surprises made for very exciting spectating on the Internet TV, and unexpected names on the podiums of the middle and relays.
Britain sent a full team of 14 athletes including six World Cup debutants. Alastair Thomas, Nathan Lawson and Grace Molloy made their senior debuts at the World Champs. It was first time in the senior team for Joshua Dudley, Fiona Bunn and Laura King
You will know the individual races start order is basically the reverse order of World Ranking. This allows the drama to build. Usually the "current leader's chair" is occupied by a succession of smiling athletes who have run well compared to what they have done before. Remarkably, in the women's middle race, the very first starter, the runner wearing number one, had the leader's chair for the entire race. Many congratulations to Hanna Lundberg of Sweden, who had only run two forest World Ranking Events prior to this World Cup Round. If her name is familiar it might be because she ran well at the European Sprint Champs in Switzerland earlier this year, and she won races at the World Junior Ski-Orienteering in Estonia in February.
The TV commentary noted that both last year's World Cup champions, the Swedes Tove Alexandersson and Gustav Bergman had COVID after the World Championships. Tove, who won the three individual races at the World Champs with tremendous speed compared to other runners, was third in the long, fifth in the middle, and did not run the relay at Idre. Gustav was running very strongly in the long, catching his three-minute man Daniel Hubmann (who was eventually third). But he tied up late in the race (and made a mistake) to finish fourth. He made mistakes in the middle, and was not at all satisfied with 18th. And then he ran very well on the last leg of the relay, particularly to stay away from a close chasing pack on the last loop, to take the team win.
In the relays nations can enter multiple teams but only the first one to finish counts for the podium and the World Cup scoring. In the photo at the top of this blogpost of the womens' relay podium, three of the teams are second teams. The win came down to a last loop battle between the Swedish first and second teams, which Sarah Hagstrom won for the second team. Her teammates Emma Bjessmo and Johanna Oberg are with her on the top step. (All teams have leg 1 on the left and leg 3 on the right as we look at the picture.) Third place is the Finnish second team of the young runners Veera Klemettinen, Amy Nymalm and Ida Haapala. The Finnish first team were ninth. And sixth is Switzerland 2: Sarina Kyburz, Paula Gross and Martina Ruch. Switzerland 1 had a sprint finish with Norway but were disqualified as long distance winner Simona Aebersold had missed a control. As Simona left control 4, she navigated from 5 to 6 (and not surprisingly the map made little sense.) This was the same area of the map where Ben Mitchell mispunched in the men's race, with parallel features after a diagonal climb up 70m.
Here's an example leg from late on in the men's middle. Daniel Hubmann, who was 3 seconds off the win at the end, loses 54secs to his teammate Joey Hadorn the winner, by running to below the control. You can see the whole story in the animation in the World of O article.
It was very nice to have a full Great Britain team running (unlike World Cup Round 1, where COVID precluded all but a token participation) and great to see many debutants completing courses in such challenging terrain.
Grace did an excellent run on leg 1 of the relay, finishing in the leading group of ten teams - exactly what is wanted. She was just 38 seconds behind the leader in 7th place. Cecilie was the other first leg runner in this relay and finished high up in 12th. She was, however, running on her own rather than with the leading group, and the time gap behind the leaders increased in the second half of the course.
Whilst none of the runners had great individual performances, all but two ran well enough that they are now counting one or two results from Idre as part of their World Ranking score. The exceptions are Alastair (who didn't finish and may well be injured) and Megan - whose long race points were 4 points short (1283 vs 1287) for inclusion in her best five.
1 Kasper Harlem Fosser
2 Magne Daehli
3 Daniel Hubmann
4 Gustav Bergman
5 Timo Sild
6 Matthias Kyburz
1 Simona Aebersold
2 Andrine Benjaminsen
3 Tove Alexandersson
4 Hanna Lundberg
5 Emma Bjessmo
6 Sabine Hauswirth
They were full length races, the winning times being 99:53 and 88:31.
Men: 43-Ralph Street, 47-Hector Haines, 76-Ben Mitchell, 93-Chris Smithard, 96-Nathan Lawson, dnf-Alastair Thomas.
Women: 33-Megan Carter-Davies, 34-Cat Taylor, 37-Grace Molloy, 48-Jo Shepherd, 52-Cecilie Andersen, 67-Laura King.
1 Joey Hadorn
2 Daniel Hubmann
3 Simon Hector
4 Joonas Ahola
5 Albin Ridefelt
6 Kasper Harlem Fosser
1 Hanna Lundberg
2 Simona Aebersold
3 Natalia Gemperle
4 Karolin Ohlsson
5 Tove Alexandersson
6 Lisa Risby
Four Swedes in the top six. The other Swedish women were 8th, 10th, 15th, 46th and 61st.
Men: 29-Ralph Street, 32-Hector Haines, 49-Ben Mitchell, 94-Chris Smithard, 105-Joshua Dudley, 107-Nathan Lawson.
Women: 36-Jo Shepherd, 41-Grace Molloy, 62-Megan Carter-Davies, 74- Cecilie Andersen, 86-Fiona Bunn, dnf-Cat Taylor.
1 Sweden 2 Norway 3 Switzerland 4 Finland 5 Estonia 6 Denmark
1 Sweden 2 Russia 3 Finland 4 Czech Republic 5 Norway 6 Switzerland
Only the best team from each nation counts in the World Cup.
Men: 1st team (Hector Haines, Ralph Street, Ben Mitchell) DSQ; 2nd team (Nathan Lawson, Chris Smithard, Joshua Dudley): 13th nation - 24th position.
Women: 1st team (Grace Molloy, Fiona Bunn, Megan Carter-Davies) 10th nation - 15th position; 2nd team (Cecilie Andersen, Laura King, Jo Shepherd) - 19th position.