Grace Molloy at Control 3 in the World Champs Middle Distance Race
The World Champs Middle Races in Switzerland were as expected incredibly technical, and hot weather and the tough forest took its toll on the athletes. Being over 1000m above sea level may not have helped either. Many top runners made mistakes, and some very big ones very early in the race. And in both races there was a clear winner as the defending champions mastered the navigation at their race speed.
The highest placed British runner was Megan Carter-Davies, 12th. She was however disappointed with errors at controls 6 and then at 18, right at the end. Grace Molloy was 28th, Ralph Street was 29th, and Alastair Thomas was 34th. All of them lost time at places on the course, as did most of the runners.
Megan Carter-Davies, photo: Remy Steinegger
Nick Barrable spoke with Alastair and Ralph afterwards. The interviews include a clip of them at control 4, and their running in. Alastair's result was by quite some margin his best ever score in a World Ranking Event.
World of O - World Champs Middle Distance Analysis
The Arena, photo: Thomi Studhalter
The silver medallists from Thursday's long races, the defending champions at Middle Distance, were clear winners.
In the women's race, which was run first, Tove Alexandersson of Sweden won by over two minutes from the runner who started two minutes ahead of her, Natalia Gemperle of Switzerland.
In the men's race Matthias Kyburz of Switzerland won by exactly two minutes, and as he was the final starter the comfortable margin allowed him to delight the home spectators with a lot of crowd interaction as he took the run-in gently. The noisiest finish had however come a few minutes earlier, when the Swiss Joey Hadorn ran in (see below.)
Tove Alexandersson, later in the course, Natalia Gemperle in the background, photo: Remy Steinegger
Matthias Kyburz finishes, photo: Thomi Studlhalter
The women's race was run first. 45 qualified on Wednesday as the first 15 in each of the 3 heats. 15 more runners qualified from countries that would not otherwise have had a runner in the final - they took the first start slots, then it was the 15th placed runners, then the 14th, and so on to the best in the heats. The final starters were Sarah Hagstrom, Evely Kaasiku, Hanna Lundberg, Natalia Gemperle, Tove Alexandersson and Simona Aebersold. There was a 2 minute interval between starters.
Hanna Lundberg of Sweden won the bronze medal. Although in 2023 she is a first year senior at her first World Champs her medal is not such a big surpise as she won the World Cup Middle Distance Race in Idre in 2021. At control 1 she caught up her compatriot Sarah Hagstrom: the orienteer ranked 5th in the world having lost 4 minutes in the first 300m of the course.
Hanna Lundberg (foreground) at Control 3, photo: On The Red Line
Natalia Gemperle of Switzerland won the silver medal. She was caught by Tove at control 4.
Natalia Gemperle at Control 3, photo: On The Red Line
Simona Aebersold of Switzerland, the winner of the Long Distance on Thursday and the final starter, lost time on controls 1 and 3 - she was only 28th fastest to that control. But she then had a purple patch, and was the third fastest at control 9, and through to control 15 - just Tove and Natalia quicker. But then at control 16 came a big mistake dropping her to 18th: a short leg where she spent time in the wrong part of the forest. She was 13th in the end.
Behind Hanna Lundberg in the top-10 were Ane Dyrkorn and Andrine Benjaminsen of Norway, Venla Harju of Finland, Sandra Grosberga of Latvia, Teresa Janosikova of Czechia, Sarah Hagstrom and then Evely Kaasiku of Estonia.
So there were three runners from countries outside the big four countries in the top-10: Latvia, Czechia, and Estonia. Vendula Horcickova of Czechia was 11th. Then it was Megan, who incidentally had the fastest time to control 5. Then Simona, Aleksandra Hornik of Poland, Jasmina Gassner of Austria, Cecilie Fryberg Klysner and Miri Thrane Oedum of Denmark, and the top 20 was rounded out by three runners from the big four: Sabine Hauswirth of Switzerland, Sanna Fast of Sweden and Kirsi Nurmi of Finland. .
There were 61 starters in the men's race: the final six being Kasper Fosser, Lucas Basset, Gaute Steiwer, Joey Hadorn, Albin Ridefelt and Mattias Kyburz.
The men's race is generally considered the most open competition of the championships, with maybe 15 runners being seen as potential medallists. As it turned out nobody was a match for Matthias Kyburz on the day and his winning margin was unexpected.
Thursday's long distance winner Kasper Fosser, navigated well but his speed was below his 100%, and he came 7th.
The contest for the silver and bronze medals was much closer, with the final section of the course, which was faster but very physical, seeing significant changes.
To control 20 (a little over 3 minutes from the finish - see the tracking link above), the Swedes Gustav Bergman and Albin Ridefelt did the second and third fastest times (behind Matthias Kyburz). But those last 3 minutes were very physical, and most athletes were very tired by then.
There was a relatively new name in the frame, Jannis Bonek of Austria, the 10th last starter. He did the 7th fastest time to control 15, but he went fast to the finish from there. The TV broadcast used the GPS tracking to good effect to show his speed from there to the finish compared to Gustav Bergman.
Jannis Bonek, photo: On The Red Line
Jannis's time had him in the current leader's chair, and Gustav Bergman could not beat it.
But going fast was the home team's Joey Hadorn, the third last starter. He was only 9th at control 15 as the potentially faster but physical section of the course began. Maybe the crowd helped, they certainly made a lot of noise. He could surely hear that as he ran 20-21 in the fastest time of the day (he had been fastest on the two previous legs too). he was roared up through the trees of the final steep climb from 21 to 22 (4 seconds slower than Jannis Bonek), and there was cacophony as he ran the finishing loop in the arena in front of the grandstand to beat Jannis by 7 seconds to take the lead. With a mistake by Albin Ridefelt late on, only Matthias Kyburz could beat these times, so Joey Hadorn took silver and Jannis Bonek the bronze.
As is often the case if a runner from outside the big four countries takes a medal this is widely considered a good thing, and some readers will remember the good atmosphere when Isia Basset won the bronze in the WOC Middle in Latvia in 2018 -it was reminiscent of that. Jannis was born in 1999 and is also already a TioMila winner.
Joey Hadorn, photo: Remy Steinegger
Albin Ridelft and Gustav Bergman were 4th and 5th, Olli Ojanaho (3rd fastest to control 13) of Finland 6th, and Kasper Fosser 7th. Eskil Kinnerberg of Norway was 8th, Lucas Basset of France 9th, Emil Svensk of Sweden 10th, Gaute Steiwer of Norway 11th, and Anton Johansson of Sweden 12th. Then it was Ruslan Glibov of Ukraine, Florian Howald of Switzerland, Soren Thrane Oedum of Denmark, Miika Kirmula of Finland, Tomas Krivda of Czechia, Bojan Blumenstein of Germany, Gernot Ymsen of Austria and Vegard Jarvis Westergard representing Canada.