A late report from an event in July in between the big competitions. The official number of participants in the Swiss O Week 2023 is 4,683 people, with up to 40 countries represented. We were all given a huge paperback handbook with176 pages of information for a 6 day event!
The transport was amazing from the buses around Flims all being free for competitors, with Gondolas to take us up high into the mountains. The big takeaway was an understanding of the next level of orienteering, really fast athletes to compete with, and huge experiences in truly challenging places.
It was very cool to run on some of the same terrain as the WOC athletes and some of the most technical orienteering some of us had come up against – especially the middle technical event.
New Zealanders were well represented, and Zefa Fa’aves’s long distance run was acknowledged with an interview by the announcer after a stunning run. They asked him about the difference between NZ running and the Swiss terrain and he said “ there was really nothing like this in New Zealand” .
Felix Hunt had suffered a knee injury that had not healed during JWOC, and on top of that was depleted due to an iron deficiency and suffering some sort of cold. So he was super pleased to have everything ease up in the Czech training camp. In between JWOC and Swiss O, many headed off to camp near to where JWOC 2024 will be, to experience navigation in flatter open pine forest with blueberry undergrowth. it was in this terrain that Felix started to enjoy the running without problems again.
The highlight for the juniors was Zefa winning second place and Felix winning third overall through all the 6 stages, and Rachel Baker coming third in stage 6.
A quick wrap-up of the stages:
Stage 1 | Flims | 16 July Super technical on the WOC middle map – in an area of continual knolls and depressions in the forest below Flims. The challenge was to get away with as few mistakes as possible. Matt Ogden described this terrain in WOC as being “on an other level” .
Stage 2 | Crap Sogn Gion | 17 July It was misty on the way up in the gondola, but it cleared throughout the day. We walked uphill to a start and the run was in open meadowlands peppered with many negative features including depressions, and deep rocky ribs. You had to have good control so you didn’t overrun the elevation levels and skilful route choices between similar features that appeared only when you were right upon them.
Stage 3 | Vorab Glacier | 18 July This would have been a unique orienteering environment on moraine rock right next to a glacier, requiring 3 gondolas to get to the event. Most of the New Zealanders had very late start times and did not manage to run before the event was cancelled. Only those with an early time got in a run. A combination of one or two of the gondolas having technical problems and a thunderstorm cancelled the event, and many were stranded in various places trying to get to the start by walking. The area looked interesting on moraine rock, with depressions, cliffs and knolls in between small pockets of snow.
Stage 4 | Nagens | 20 July Another day up transported to the start via a huge express Gondola to Nagens. Open terrain with technical features including the many knolls, depressions and cliffs in a wide loop with some open running and some ascent – ideal for the hill runners. A longer event in which Zefa won in his class.
Stage 5 | Tektonikarena Sardona | 21 July We were all asked to set off earlier as the weather was threatening to close in, and it did. Once again, if you didn’t have an early start you didn’t get to compete, and they closed the competition when the sleety cold rain came in suddenly and many were unprepared – running in lycra. After the rain it cleared and the weather was OK, so maybe a break in the timing was required and a warning to wear warmer clothing as many got quite cold and wet.
Stage 6| Laax| 21 July Another run in the Flims forest and World Championship area. Not as dense forest, so faster running with more clearings and open trees but still includting hill running, and technical features and rocks.. It was important to adjust the running speed to suit each technical area and just to keep going steadily, especially with the long finish run into the huge WOC arena on a warm day.