What an exciting month of orienteering! Starring with the final round of the National Sprint League and culminating in Tim Robertson’s fabulous performances in Sweden at the World Cup. Sandwiched in between were the test races for WOC in Denmark where, as well more great results from Tim, Penelope Salmon showed that she can be a threat in KO sprints. At the same time those still in New Zealand but shortly heading for WOC, JWOC and WUOC are refining their training. Hardly time to pause for breath.
World Cup Round 1 – Tim flies
The first round of the World Cup, in Boras, Sweden, was the first real test of the year for some of the WOC-bound members of team NZL. With Laura Robertson still stuck in Britain it turned out only to be brother Tim, Joseph Lynch and Penelope Salmon who were able to front up. For Tim this was the chance to show that he will be one of the favourites at WOC, while for the latter two, although Joseph as previously been at JWOC, this was the first time on the world stage and a chance to test themselves against the best.
Interestingly, the races were inexactly the opposite order to what will be the case at WOC in Denmark, and started with the individual sprint. Unlike WOC this had no qualification race and in a typical IOF quirk, presumably to satisfy television, had a 1-hour gap in the middle of the women’s start times before the 40 top ranked started. The race was run in a suburban area of housing blocks, many partly surrounded by uncrossable fences and vegetation barriers, which put a premium on rapid and accurate route choice decisions but punished the over-hasty. With relatively low World Rankings Joseph and Penelope were in the earlier start blocks and both had problems. Joseph, who to be fair is still recovering from an injury obtained in late April, was steady throughout, albeit with a couple of small errors at controls 14 and 24, but has yet to regain full speed and finished well down some 2 and half minutes down on the eventual winning time. Penelope started confidently and was as high as 19th place before losing time in the latter part of the course where the tricky route choices were dominated by uncrossable barriers.
In contrast Tim was right in it from the off and in an incredibly tight race took the lead at control 17 and looked to be heading for gold until he was overhauled by Norway’s Kasper, the 2021 WOC silver medallist, 3 controls from the finish ending up 6 seconds down on Fosser and 5 seconds ahead of world no 1. Yannick Michiels of Belgium in 3rd.
The result of the women’s race was remarkable for having 6 Swedes in the top 10 with victory going to reigning world champion Tove Alexandersson by a healthy margin. Only the Swiss of Simona Aebersold in 3rd equal and elena Roos in 6th wre able to break the Swedish domination of the podium.
Australia’s Aston Key, the JWOC sprint champion in 2019 in Denmark, also had an impressive return to international competition finishing in a highly creditable 30th equal place.
Men: 1. Kasper Fosser (NOR) 15:40, 2. Tim Robertson (NZL) 15:46, 3. Yannick Michiels (BEL) 15:51, 4. Gustav Bergman (SWE) 15:52, 5. Matthias Kyburz (SUI) 16:04, 6. Max Peter Bejmer (SWE) 16:05, 30= Aston Key (AUS) 16:51, 81. Joseph Lynch (NZL) 18:00.
Women: 1. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 15:50, 2. Lina Strand (SWE) 16:19, 3=. Hannah Lundberg (SWE) 16:43, 3=. Simona Aebersold (SUI) 16:43, 5. Emma Bjessmo (SWE) 16:50, 6. Elena Roos (SUI) 16:54, 66=. Penelope Salmon (NZL) 18:51, 99. Olivia Sprod (AUS) 21:23.
The hardest part of Saturday’s KO sprint for Joseph and Penelope, as it will be for all the Kiwis at WOC, was always going to be the qualification. With a shorter course and only the top 12 in each of 3 heats to qualify there is absolutely no room for hesitation or mistakes. This was emphasised when Tim, the first of the New Zealanders out, posted what looked like a fast time but then gradually slip down the rankings in Heat 3, thankfully finishing in 10th place but only 4 seconds inside the cut-off. Things were again a lot tougher for Joseph and Penelope and neither came close. When asked later how hard he had run the qualification, Tim admitted that he had perhaps eased off towards the end and this was a lesson learned as something that even he could not afford. The intensity of competition at this level is shown by the fact that in the 3 men’s heats the final qualifier finished only 20-30 seconds behind the fastest. although the gap was larger in the women’s heats it was still only 40-60 seconds. Aston key again excelled taking 2nd place in Heat 2.
Men Heat 2: 1. Kasper Fosser (NOR) 9:20, 2. Aston Key (AUS) 9:22, 3. Eskil Kinneberg (NOR) 9:26, 26. Joseph Lynch (NZL) 10:31.
Men Heat 3: 1. Eirik Langedal Breivik (NOR) 9:20, 2. Jerker Lysell (SWE) 9:28, 3. Matthias Kyburz (SUI) 9:34, 10. Tim Robertson (NZL) 9:46.
Women Heat 3: 1. Lina Strand (SWE) 9:55, 2. Elena Roos (SUI) 10:06, 3.Charlotte Ward (GBR) 10:08, 24. Penelope Salmon (NZL) 11:19.
QF 2: 1. Tim Roberston 7:32, 2. Matthias Kyburz 7:33, 3. Gaute Hallan Steiwer (NOR) 7:35, 4. Otto Kaario (FIN) 7:41, 5. Aston Key 7:48, 6. Emil Oebro (DEN) 7:56.
SF 1: 1. Matthias Kyburz 7:13, 2. Tim Robertson 7:15, 3. Eirik Langedal Breivik 7:18, 4. Tomas Krivida (CZE) 7:22, 5. Jorgen Baklid (NOR) 7:28, 6. Gaute Hallan Steiwer 7:33.
And so to the final where in an epic race, in which there was no splitting of the field, the lead changed hands several times. Tim led at the arena run-through prior to the short final loop but, after a complex route choice to control 11, Kyburz hit the front and held on to win by 1 second in a time of 7:21. In a desperate race for the minor placings Tim out-sprinted Swedes August Mollen and Martin Regborn and Norway’s Kasper Fosser, the winner of Thursday’s individual race.
Men Final: 1. Matthias Kyburz 7:21, 2. Tim Robertson 7.22, 3. August Mollen (SWE) 7.23, 4. Kasper Fosser 7:24, 5. Martin Regborn (SWE) 7:25, 6. Miika Kirmula (FIN) 7:26, 7. Ralph Street (GBR) 7:32.
Like the individual sprint the women’s final was dominated by Swedes, with 4 in the line-up. However, it was Britain’s Megan Carter-Davis who nearly pulled off a major upset when she led for most of the race, before Tove Alexandersson caught her and pulled away on the final loop. Carter-Davis took silver with Norway’s top female sprinter Andrine Benjaminsen in 3rd ahead of the other 3 Swedes.
Women Final: 1. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 8:15, 2. Megan Carter-Davies (GBR) 8:19, 3. Andrine Benjaminsen (NOR) 8:26, 4. Lina Strand (SWE) 8:30, 5. Karolin Ohlsson (SWE) 8:31, 6. Hanna Lundberg (SWE) 8:37.
Sunday’s sprint relay was originally planned to feature a full NZL team of Laura, Tim, Joseph and Penelope, but in Laura’s absence the first leg was filled by the sole Dutch runner Eef van Dongen. Eef has only been in the sport for 3 years and featured prominently at the Swedish sprint champs earlier in the month where she finished 2nd in the KO and 5th in the individual. The sprint relay had 54 starting reams including 4 each from Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, and 3 from the likes of Britain and Czech Republic and a few other nations. The arena was based around the Gustav Adolf church with the map extending west to give route choice across and back the Viskan river.
The combined Netherlands/New Zealand team got off to an amazing start when Eef was well in the leading group trhoughout coming in to the first changeover in 2nd place only 22 seconds down on the leaders Sweden 2. Eef handed over to Tim who had a monumental tussle with Switzerland 1 and Sweden 1 before coming in 4th, dropping only 3 seconds on Sweden 2 who continued to lead. Joseph on leg 3 ran a strong first half of the race but gradually lost time to the chasing pack, dropping 7 places as he handed over to Penelope in 11th position. Like Joseph, Penelope had her best run of the week, dropping only 53 seconds on Sweden 2, bringing the combined team home in 58:10 in 18th place. Given that this time was only 10 seconds off 12th place and there were 4 Swedish teams, 4 Norwegian and 3 Swiss teams ahead of them, this was a wonderful result. As each nation has only 1 team at WOC, removing the duplicate national teams means that the combined team finished in 8th place!
1. Sweden 2 55:20, 2. Switzerland 1 55:56, 3. Sweden 1 56:36, 4. Norway 1 56:36, 5. Switzerland 2 56:56, 6. Britain 1 57:06, 18. Netherlands/New Zealand (Eef van Dongen 14:06, Tim Robertson 13:45, Joseph Lynch 14:50, Penelope Salmon 15:29) 58:10.
So, with WOC approaching where does this leave the prospects for New Zealand? Tim is clearly in prime form and must surely now be one of the favourites for WOC. Joseph and Penelope will learn from their first taste of top level competition, and with Lizzie, Tommy, Gene and Imogene training hard in New Zealand, the possible absence of Laura is the main cloud on the horizon. In terms of preparation Joseph and Penelope run in the Danish sprint champs this coming weekend, while the following weekend pretty well the entire team compete at the British sprint champs where there will be the chance for a full NZL team in the sprint relay. After that many of the team take a break from sprint to take in the Jukola relay in Finland, before heading back to Denmark for final preparations.
WOC Test Races
Each year, a month or so in advance of the World Champs the host nation puts on what are described as “Test Races”. These are designed to give experience of the forthcoming WOC terrain and are used by several nations as selection trials. This year the races in Denmark were a couple of weekends before the World Cup in Boras and gave relevant experience to Tim Robertson and Penelope Salmon, who were joined by non-WOC team member Toby Scott. The fields were perhaps not as strong as might have been expected with the weekend clashing with the Swedish sprint champs and only a smattering of the Swiss in attendance, but produced excellent results by both Tim and Penelope with Tim a clear winner of Saturday’s individual sprint, and he and Penelope both making the finals of Sunday’s KO sprint, Tim finishing 4th and Penelope 5th.
In the individual Tim won by 14 seconds from Norwegians Kasper Harlem Fosser (who was to get his revenge 2 weeks later at the World Cup!) and Havard Sandstad Eidsmo. Penelope finished 3rd in her qualification heat but was probably not used to the style of course in the final and finished 39th. Toby also made the men’s final finishing 44th In the KO sprint both Tim and Penelope were relatively untroubled in reaching the final although, with the 3 KO rounds run in quick succession, they couldn’t repeat their quarter and semi-final performances in the final. The test races provided a few pointers to the style of course planning to be expected at WOC with two things standing out. Firstly, the Danes will use a lot of artificial barriers to increase route choice on both long and short legs. Secondly, none of the KO rounds had any splitting of the field – they were all straight races depending on long leg route choice to split the field. With only 8-10 controls advertised for the WOC KO sprint rounds this looks to be the likely case in a month’s time.
National Sprint League
The final round of the NSL was held in New Plymouth over the weekend of 7/8 May with 2 individual sprints planned by Annie Sanderson and Nick Collins, and a 2-person relay conjured up by Karl Dravitzki. Although there was minimal representation from the South Island and some other noticeable absentees, the fields were boosted by a large turn-out of locals. Also of considerable interest was the performance of WOC-bound Tommy Hayes, returned from a stint of rural medical duty in Taumaranui.
The first sprint was took in the adjacent Westend, Devon Intermediate and St. Jospeh’s schools west of the city centre and saw clear wins for Tommy and Lizzie Ingham ahead of Jonty Oram and Ronan Lee and Amber Riddle and Zara Stewart respectively. The afternoon moved to Spotswood College linked by a short stretch of road to a primary school and featuring a complex mix of walkways and an irregular pattern of buildings. Tommy and Lizzie again came out on top, although Ronan produced his best result of the NSL only 5 seconds behind Tommy and with Aryton Shadbolt only another 10 seconds further back.
Men: 1. Tommy Hayes 15:15, 2. Jonty Oram 15:54, 3. Ronan Lee 16:13, 4. Oli Vincent 16:41, 5. Aryton Shadbolt 16:45, 6. Karl Dravitzki 17:04.
Women: 1. Lizzie Ingham 15:49, 2. Amber Riddle 18:08, 3. Zara Stewart 18:48, 4. Rachel Basevi 19:00, 5. Sarah O’Sullivan 21:01, 6. Tessa Ramsden 21:39.
Men: 1. Tommy Hayes 14:17, 2. Ronan Lee 14:22, 3. Aryton Shadbolt 14:32, 4. Jonty Oram 15:23, 5. Oli Vincent 16:20, 6. Karl Dravitzki 16:42.
Women: 1. Lizzie Ingham 16:29, 2. Zara Stewart 18:19, 3. Mercy Jones 18:42, 4. Amber Riddle 18:51, 5. Rachel Basevi 19 :00, 6. Tessa Ramsden 21:39.
Sunday’s 2×2 relay on New Plymouth Girls HS had 4 variations of course with thedifferent teams having a different order. The excellent planning by Karl was rewarded with a fascinating race. Although there was only 1 official team each from Southerly Storm and Northern Knights the Storm (Amber and Aryton) came out on top as Aryton ran down Thomas Higgins on the last leg for a total time of 45:40. Thomas, running with Lizzie, brought Central Magic in for second 27 seconds behind, with Tommy and Sophie Skelton for Knights in 3rd in 49:19. Tommy ran the fastest time on both legs.
1. Southerly Storm (Amber Riddle and Aryton Shadbolt) 45:40, 2. Central Magic (Lizzie Ingham and Thomas Higgins) 46:07, 3. Northern Knights (Tommy Hayes and Sophie Skelton) 49:19.
The New Plymouth round brought the end of a competition involving 6 individual sprints and 2 KO sprints with 4 of the first the better of the KO rounds to count. Ultimately Joseph Lynch, despite missing the final round, had maximum points (500) to take the men’s title, while Lizzie Ingham similarly scored the maximum in the women. Jonty’s performances in the last round pulled him to second place ahead of Gene Beveridge. In the women, with Penelope Salmon missing both the ONZ Champs and the final round, it was Zara Sdtewart who climbed to second place ahead of the consistent Amber Riddle.
Men: 1. Joseph Lynch 500.0, 2. Jonty Oram 451.6, 3. Gene Beveridge 376.6, 4. Kurtis Schuker 364.9, 5. Nathan Borton 353.8, 6. Eddie Swain 313.4.
Women: 1. Lizzie Ingham 500.0, 2. Zara Stewart 461.3, 3. Amber Riddle 450.2, 4. Briana Steven 437.2, 5. Molly McGowan 421.5, 6. Anya Murray 418.4.
The full individual results are at https://www.orienteering.org.nz/national-sprint-league/
The teams’ competition was very uneven with the three different regions have disparate numbers at each round meaning that it was necessary to take different numbers of scores into account. Although this may be regarded a somewhat controversial, the final results saw Northern Knights squeak home in first place ahead of Southerly Storm and a central magic team boosted by the final round results.
1. Northern Knights (Ind: 361.5, 433.8, 439.8, 529.9, 280.0, 289.4; KO: 483.0, 563.0; SR 183.4) Total 3563.8
2. Southerly Storm (Ind: 446.5, 428.2, 345.8, 559.1, 178.2, 185.7; KO: 482.0, 579.5; SR 194.5) Total 3399.5
3. Central Magic (Ind: 346.9, 338.6, 362.3 543.5, 280.8, 272.9; KO: 390.6, 563.2; SR 182.4) Total 3281.2
With the first part of 2022 disrupted by Covid it is apparent retrospectively the timing of some of the rounds was not ideal. For 2023 it is hoped that the NSL can be timetabled as part of events that are already being planned by clubs. These are hoped to be Southern O Week and follow-on events, the ONZ Champs, and hopefully one other round in March. I would be delighted to accept suggestions from clubs willing to be part of this.
WUOC team announced
New Zealand will be represented by an almost full team at the World University Championships which are being held in Switzerland from 16-21 August. The event consists of individual sprint, middle and long races as well as sprint and forest relays. In each of the individual races only 4 men and 4 women from a nation may start, as well as only 1 team in the sprint relay.
Women: Anna Cory-Wright, Amber Riddle, Jessica Sewell, Heidi Stolberger
Men: Nathan Borton, Ronan Lee, Aryton Shadbolt, Dougal Shepherd, Scott Smith, Liam Stolberger
Manager: Kieran Woods
JWOC, Southern Cross Challenge and Queen’s Birthday – a personal view as HPL
On 10th of May I published the following notice on the ONZ website:
Discussion between ONZ High Performance and the Junior Selection Panel regarding the above has taken place. It has been agreed that those school age athletes who, after a rigorous process of 5 trial races, have been selected for the 2022 Junior World Orienteering Championships have already demonstrated known form regarding selection for the Southern Cross Challenge to be run against Australian State teams in late September. That being the case, those school age athletes, including the named reserves, selected for JWOC are exempt from the Southern Cross selection requirement to run Senior Boys/Girls A at the upcoming Queen’s Birthday events. Preparation for JWOC will be best served by their competing in, at least, M/W20E.”
Predictably this has drawn some comment and, I am given to understand, prompted concern among some other senior school age athletes that they may miss out on selection for the Southern Cross Challenge teams as this has been interpreted as meaning that the athletes selected for JWOC have automatically been selected for the schools’ teams. Note that is not what the above notice says. Automatic selection of JWOC athletes is quite deliberately not referred to, nor is it intended. However, although I suspect that some (possibly many) will still not agree, I thought that I would expand on the rationale behind this notice.
First a reminder that it is only in recent years that New Zealand has had two teams in the Southern Cross Challenge. Prior to that, when there was only one team, there was a rule that school age athletes who were selected for JWOC were not eligible for the Southern Cross Challenge team. This was based on the premise that even having, for example, 2 such male athletes meant that there were only places for 3 others in the Senior Boys team. Thus, the opportunity for others was severely restricted if JWOC athletes were included. Now that we have two teams in the Challenge, having even 4 JWOC athletes selected still leaves spaces for 6 others i.e. more than the size of the original single team. It has also been suggested by a few people that not selecting JWOC athletes would mean that to fill 10 places the standard required for selection could be significantly diluted – selection for any national team should not be based simply on a quota but on achieving a suitable standard.
The other issue is what class JWOC athletes should run in at Queen’s Birthday. The JWOC team is invariably selected before Queen’s Birthday and selection follows a series of generally 4 or 5 trial races. In my view, if ONZ is serious about High Performance, JWOC is, and has to be, a far higher priority than the Southern Cross Challenge. Equally, selection for JWOC is not (or certainly should not be) the end goal for an athlete. The focus after selection should be to prepare for and perform as well as possible at JWOC itself. Queen’s Birthday is the last ONZ major event before JWOC and therefore, in terms of preparation, any athlete selected for JWOC should be running at as high a level as is appropriate. For most this will be in the 20E class, for some 21E may even be more appropriate. Unless the Senior Boys/Girls A classes are on the same courses as the 20E classes (as indeed they are for day 1 at QB in 2022) this will inevitably mean that JWOC athletes will running on different, longer and possibly harder courses that their Senior A counterparts. If we wish to succeed internationally, that is entirely the way it should be. Whether school age JWOC athletes are then selected for the Southern Cross team is up to the selection panel.