35 years ago, and as strangely as coincidences go… 3 of the 5 athletes that ran in the 2023 World Masters Orienteering Champs (WMOC) this year, also ran in a 1988 Orienteering World Cup (OWC) which was in the same area as this year’s WMOC long distance event. Back then, they were representing three different countries: Jean for Great Britain, Al for NZ, and Greg for the Netherlands. Memories of those previous results are hazy, but it is believed Jean and Greg ran pretty well. Al maybe somewhat less so!
So the 2023 WMOC was a little bit of a reunion for some from 10-18 August, in and around the city of Kosice in eastern Slovakia. Five New Zealanders attended amongst a total of just over 2700 competitors from 44 nations – so quite a few orienteers to compete with!
The week kicked-off with a model event for the sprint, held in the Veterinary University –several species could be heard from within the buildings while several patients were seen going to and from the vet hospital as we wandered about the campus.
The following day was the Sprint Qualification where all five Kiwis made the A-final easily enough. The Sprint final was held in the centre of the old city and finished in an adjacent park. The courses were disappointingly simple with little in the way of route choice or complexity. However, a good day was had by all and we all appreciated the finish location next to a swimming pool given the very hot temperatures. Results: Al Cory-Wright 11th M55 (only 28 secs from the winner), Greg Barbour 15th M60, Rob Garden MP M70 (there’s always one!), Marquita Gelderman 12 \th W55, Jean Cory-Wright 19th W65.
After 3 days in town it was nice to get out to the forest. A model event was followed, and the next day was the Forest Qualification event. Instead of having separate qualification races for both the middle and long distance, WMOC has one qualification race which sorts everyone out into A, B, C and D finals for the Middle Distance final. The results of the Middle final then dictate the composition of the Long Distance final with a set of slightly complicated shuffling rules shifting the worst A-final performers from the Middle back to the Long B-final and promoting the best B and C finalists into the A-final. Again, all five Kiwis qualified for their respective A-finals with Marquita actually winning her heat, giving her the dubious honour of starting last in the final.
The middle final was held in beautiful deciduous forest with complex contour details and erosion features. The Cory-Wrights were the star performers on the day with Jean 4th in W65 and Al 8th M55, both in very competitive fields. Marquita had a poor start so wouldn’t have been in the medal hunt but then managed to well and truly sprain an ankle and hobbled home for 26th in W55. Rob was pretty happy with his 16th place in M70 while Greg was a bit disappointed with 33rd in M60.
The Long final was preceded by a model event again which saw the only rain of the week. Terrain for the Long was in a Karst area full of huge depressions, some up to 10-12 contours deep (50-60m). This meant that running dead straight was not an option and it was very easy to be turned around without realising it while going around the holes. The area was used for JWOC in 2012 where the women’s course was won by a quite promising junior called Tove Alexanderson. This time it was Greg’s turn to shine with an outstanding 4th place in M60. Jean continued her good form with 6th in W65, Marquita got round the course in a respectable 8th place thanks to at least 3m of strapping tape and practical help from You-Tube and Rob had another solid run coming in 18th. Alistair had a day to forget – did I mention getting turned around? Suffice to say, without his GPS track to consult, he may never have known what he really did out there!
Jean commented: “WMOC was great: a real challenge. I had no idea how it would be, having not been on the international scene for so many years. I knew a European WMOC would be more competitive than one in the southern hemisphere. I just aimed to have clean runs, but was surprised to get 2nd in a heat. This inspired me to go hard for the final. In both finals I was pleased to beat names I used to compete against and come 4th and 6th. The terrain was fun and it was hot and hard. Every Kiwi in the event came back doing us proud! What was most inspiring was seeing people in their 80’s and 90’s giving it their all! I will continue to get out there and encourage everyone over 35 to do so!! “
Greg adds his post-event thoughts on WMOC:
“I will be encouraging my competitors to take Alistair’s turnaround technique! Fortunately he only employed this on the last day, otherwise he had some of the best races he has ever had and was rewarded with good results particularly considering a knee injury.
The sprints were poorly set at WMOC despite having a beautiful and interesting town. The courses were way too easy, making it a running race. They could have put in many more temporary barriers, the area was good enough to support a really good course. By comparison, the 2017 Auckland sprints at WMOC were outstanding!
The middle was very good and interesting continental terrain you see quite often. Courses in general were good although not as difficult as they could have been set. Tracks on map problematic for fairness reasons. Many tracks were not visible on the ground and some on the ground not on the map. It made the course a bit lucky, so they needed to be more careful with the mapping consistency (if in doubt leave them out). The long area was difficult and interesting and one of the more unique, this karst is a special terrain and the reason I wanted to go to his event. It did not disappoint. NZ has some karst terrain mapped at Harwood’s Hole in Nelson and in Pio Pio.G
One of the interesting points from Greg was ” how to run the big race on the big day.” Greg has spent 49 years orienteering this year and he says he still does not get this. “At the WMOC long this year, for the first time I ran a race with no mistakes (I mean zero seconds) at a Word Championship and I have run lots of world level events (maybe 50?).”
After an injury and some average results at WMOC why did it go right this day? “I was rushed to the start and late to the event (google maps took me on a tour) but that has never worried me. I suspect it was about concentration and a determination to not get it wrong that made me concentrate hard and stay in just enough contact. The stress of an event that is important and you are feeling inferior to some of the competitors makes you try and do things abnormally, run faster, leap tall builds in a single bound etc, but on this day I just did what I knew I could do – find controls. I knew it was difficult and big mistakes possible so I doubled down took aggressive routes and checked everything off. Maybe it was Rob taunting me a little that this was the last chance for this event that got me to pay attention? Some people seem to have a knack of big race on the big big day, I do at Nationals but not at world level. Marquita seems to often get it, Alistair Landels seems to get it or is that just because of generally good technique?”
Jean wraps her WMOC: “All in all, a very enjoyable week that was superbly organised in fantastic terrain” and she passes on Al’s takeaway advice: “Mixing up depressions and ignoring the compass can be very costly.“And so Al has the last words on this event:
“Greg’s insights into getting it right on the big day are a useful lesson to us all. Putting the techniques and displinces into practice consistently, race after race can be so difficult to achieve. It’s one of the frustrating and at the same time, alluring aspects of the sport.
In contrast to Greg’s great run and his rushed lead-up to it, my race got off to a reasonable start. I was in a pretty relaxed mood. I was very happy with my Sprint and Middle races, but not over-confident. I was aware of how tricky the karst terrain of the Long race would be, and I thought I had a strategy to handle it – largely ‘Caution and Compass’. The first couple of controls were fine, and this possibly led to my relaxing the ‘Caution’ component as I began the very long leg to No. 3. Then mid-way along, the ‘Compass’ bit I went completely out the window and I did that total u-turn and lost over 10 minutes. After that, I was rattled, and at times running without a plan – such that I lost map contact twice more in the race and recovered from these slips very poorly with consequent heavy time loss.
A disappointing end to a great week, but some good lessons learned, and of course a desire to get it right next time!”
Main article by Marquita Gelderman, with feedback from Greg Barbour, Jean and Al Cory-Wright