With lockdowns continuing to varying degrees around the country September has been another difficult month. With doubt now on not only the Oceania Championships but also the Northern Championships it has been difficult to keep motivation up, especially for those stuck in Level 3. Nevertheless, the world goes on around us and planning continues on a variety of fronts. The major item here is the announced increased focus on international performance in sprints, but there is also JWOC to report on, and the final round of the World Cup currently under way.
NZ HiPOs – Scotland 2024 campaign
Lockdown, with the cessation of events, has presented the opportunity to have a think about revising the HP goals for the next few years. This timely because apart from the fact that no New Zealand based orienteers have had the chance for any international representation for the last 2 years, the Covid-induced pause has also brought more starkly into focus the split of the World Championships into separate sprint and forest events in alternate years. As a result, I have been looking I particular at where it is most likely that we can make an impact on the world stage to build on the success that Tim has had in the last 2 WOC sprints.
Trying to be purely pragmatic I have come to the conclusion that, realistically, the avenue for success lies in sprint orienteering. Essentially, with the best will in the world it is extremely difficult to achieve success in Europe in the forest formats without moving and living there long-term. Familiarity with and experiencing in the multiple different terrains is pretty much a pre-requisite for any sustained success. Only Lizzie Ingham, with 4-5 years in Norway, has come close with several top 20 finishes at WOC. To a large extent the same is not true in sprint orienteering. The differences between choosing routes through campus/school buildings and through street patterns in old towns are significant but nowhere near so difficult to manage. This testified by not only with Tim’s performances, but also with top 10 WOC/World Cup finishes from Lizzie, Tommy Hayes winning silver at JWOC, and some other significant sprint performances over the last few years. In other words we can potentially be right up there with the very best in the sprint formats. The addition of the new Knock-out sprint to sprint orienteering also adds to the opportunities that are afforded.
It is also true that at this moment, perhaps for the first time since Lizzie, Laura Robertson and Kate Morrison emerged 10 or so years ago, we have a number of really promising junior women who have the requisite speed and ability to be successful if we nurture them correctly and help them to develop on the international stage. Add in some of the younger men who have performed successfully at national level in 2020 and 2021, but still await their time on the world stage, and the future is potentially very bright.
With this in mind I am developing a 3-year plan with an aim to ultimate fruition at sprint WOC2024 in Scotland– NZ HiPOs – Scotland 2024 campaign. Between now and WOC2024 in Edinburgh there are multiple major sprint events that can be used to produce much wider success in 2024. These include a round of the World Cup in May 2022 which is entirely sprint focused (SR, KO and S), sprint WOC2022 in Denmark (SR, KO, S), the 2022 World University Champs, which has both a sprint and a sprint relay, the introduction of a sprint relay into JWOC in 2023, and two more sprint focused World Cup rounds later in that year. Should we have the chance to provide the Oceania team to the World Games in the USA next July, that can also be added to the list. The aim will be to get full teams to as many as possible of these events and to target several of them as development opportunities to expose our up-and-coming athletes to top international competition. Note that although the immediate focus here is on the sprint formats, there is no intention to neglect forest orienteering in any way. There will remain full NZL teams to forest WOCs, and as far as possible, to World Cups and other major events.
To make the Scotland 2024 campaign work we also need to think domestically and, from 2022 we will be introducing a National Sprint League (NSL). This will run in parallel with the present National O League. The plan at present for the NSL is to have four rounds
Round 1: 7-10 January Sprint relay, KO sprint and individual sprint (in association with the Oceania Champs in the SI. Note, these races will go ahead even if Oceania is cancelled).
Round 2: 5-7 February 2 x individual sprints at Waitangi Weekend sprint series in Auckland (2 races)
Round 3: 5/6 March KO sprint and probably a sprint relay in Palmerston North
Round 4: 15-25 April ONZ sprint in Nelson plus 2 more individual sprints in Christchurch the following (Anzac) weekend.
These races for 2022 have been chosen because they largely fit into events that are already on the calendar. Although for 2022 they are, again largely, in the main centres, in future years the series will be built around available events and clubs will be welcome to propose these. For this series (and indeed the whole campaign) to be a success we need to ensure that we can facilitate athletes, especially the juniors whom we wish to develop, to get to these events. For 2022 this is particularly true for the Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch weekends, and sponsorship to enable this is being sought from a variety of sources. Anything we can raise will help to set us on our way to Edinburgh 2024.
After 12 months and a bit delay JWOC2021 finally went ahead in Turkey, albeit without New Zealand or Australian participation. The sprint, which started things off, was notable for having perhaps the most contours that I have seen on a sprint map for many years. Sufficiently so that getting a readable reproduction of it is near impossible. For those interested go to http://www.jwoc2020.org/wp-content/uploads/Sprint_Women.pdf for the women’s map, and the corresponding link for the men’s. The men’s race turned up a real surprise with Italian Francesco Mariani having victory by 7 seconds over a Finn, Swede, Norwegian and Frenchman in that order. The new young Danish sprint star Malin Agervig Kristiansson took the women’s title, holding Hannah Lundberg of Sweden was the surprise winner of the recent World Cup middle distance in her home country.
Men: 1. Francesco Mariani (ITA) 15:39, 2. Touko Seppa (FIN) 15:46, 3. Axel Elmblad (SWE) 15:52, 4. Tobias Alstad (NOR) 15:53, 5. Quentin Andrieux (FRA) 16:01, 6. Paulsen Vie (NOR) 16:03.
Women: 1. Malin Agervig Kristiansson (DEN) 14:57, 2. Hanna Lundberg (SWE) 15:02, 3. Cecile Calandry (FRA) 15:05, 4. Caterina Dallera (ITA) 15:11, 5. Hedvig Valbjorn Gydesen (DEN) 15:14, 6. Ida Haapala (FIN) 15:15.
Both the qualification and final for the middle distance were held on what, at first sight, looks like steep, green terrain. Surprisingly, Mikkel Kaae-Nielson, one of the Danish coaches, who subsequently presented by Zoom to the Australian/New Zealand HP groups, suggested that runnability and visibility were better than indicated.
In any event the results had a more normal feel to them with Swedes taking both titles.
Men: 1. Axel Elmblad 26:02, 2. Viktor Svensk (SWE) 27:15, 3. Ferenc Jonas (HUN) 27:35, 4. Julien Vuitton (FRA) 27:40, 5. Touko Seppa 27:56, 6. Mark Tutynin (RUS) 27:59.
Women: 1. Hannah Lundberg 26:25, 2. Lilly Graber (SUI) 28:07, 3. Tilda Ostberg (SWE) 28:10, 4. Corina Hueni (SUI) 28:19, 5. Viktoria Mag (HUN) 28:22, 6, Pia Young Vik (NOR) 28:27.
The long distance presented just as steep terrain but with less rock and multiple route choices. Once again the men’s race proved very open with the title going to Basile basset of France by 7 seconds over Soren Thrane Odum of Denmark. There was only 1 Swiss, 2 Norwegian and no Swedes in the top 10. Things were a bit more uniform among the women with 4 of the top 6 from the middle distance again making the podium- Lilly Gruber taking gold to back up her middle distance silver.
Men: 1. Basile Basset (FRA) 1:08:57, 2. Soren Thrane Odum (DEN) 1:09:04, 3. Ferenc Jonas 1:11:46, 4. Ilian Angeli (ITA) 1:12:13, 5. Antoine Becaert (FRA) 1:12:29, 6. Isak Jonasson (NOR) 1:12:53.
Women: 1. Lilly Gruber 52:59, 2. Lucie Semikova (CZE) 53:47, 3. Viktoria Mag 54:25, 4. Petrina Costermans (SWE) 54:30, 5. Pia Young Vik 54:58, Hanna Lundberg 55:39.
With Hungarians having taken medals in both ihttp://www.jwoc2020.org/wp-content/uploads/Long_Women.pdfndividual forest events it was perhaps less of a surprise that Hungary took the silver medal behind Sweden in both relays, which otherwise has a more normal look to the podium. In fact the Hungarians held the lead at the start of the last leg in the women’s race before Hanna Lunberg pulled out a stormer of a run to bring Sweden home.
Men: 1. Sweden 1:44:14, 2. Hungary 1:45:51, 3. Switzerland 1:47:06, 4. Norway 1:48:10, 5. Russia 1:48:11, 6. Denmark 1:49:52.
Women: 1. Sweden 1:36:57, 2. Hungary 1:39:16, 3. Czech Republic 1:40:49, 4. Finland 1:42:01, 5. Switzerland 1:42;19, 6. France 1:42:31.
Although JWOC2021 was somewhat anomalous in having being delayed for a year, it is interesting that it was marked by excellent results for 3 nations – France, Hungary and Italy – which do not normally figure so prominently at JWOC. Whether this was a reflection of the venue being one with which teams were unfamiliar, or shows a levelling of the filed at this level, remains to be seen.
World Cup Round 3 – Italy
Although still in fact underway, the final round of the World Cup started on the last day of September with a long distance in the beech forests of the high plateau to the north of Venice. Again, New Zealand was represented only by Tim Robertson and Toby Scott. The long distance looks to have been a relatively gruelling event with Tim being out for a shade over 2 hours and Toby about 10 or so minutes longer. Winners were the two WOC2021 long distance winners. Kasper Harlem Fosser of Norway and Sweden’s Tove Aexandersson, both by margins of nearly 6 minutes. Matthias Kyburz repeated his WOC 2nd place, with fellow Swiss Daniel Hubmann in 3rd. Tim and Toby were 43rd and 74th respectively. The first 4 women were all in the top 4 at WOC with just 2nd and 3rd places reversed.
Men: 1. Kasper Harlem Fosser (NOR) 1:39:51, 2. Matthias Kyburz (SUI) 1:45:23, 3. Daniel Humann (SUI) 1:45:56, 4. Audun Heimdal (NOR) 1:46:25, 5. Martin Regborn (SWE) 1:47:48, 6. Eskil Kinneberg (NOR) 1:49:16, 43. Tim Robertson (NZL) 2:01:05, 74. Toby Scott (NZL) 2:14:06.
Women: 1. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 1:20:59, 2. Simona Aebersold (SUI) 1:26:41, 3. Natalia Gemperle (RUS) 1:27:10, 4. Andrine Benjaminsen (NOR) 1:29:10, 5.Sara Hagstrom (SWE) 1:29:10, 6. Sarina Kyburz (SUI) 1:31:33.
Under 23 Camp and elite sprint weekend
Due to an oversight no closing date for applications for the Under 23 Camp was included in the information given out. Applications will therefore be accepted up until Friday 15 October.
The camp will be based in Palmerston North from 8-14 December. The weekend of 10/11 December will be dedicated to sprint training (including several maps that will be either rnew of unknown to nearly all). In line with the Scotland 2024 Campaign, this weekend is also open to senior elites aiming for WOC/World Cup/WUOC in 2022. An early indication of interest from senior elites would be appreciated. Subject to availability of accommodation those attending the sprint training may be able to join the last 2 days of the camp.
As some will have seen, the recent IOF Council meeting confirmed a KO sprint as being an official championship event at the Oceania Championships. Thee KO sprint planned for 8 January in Blenheim therefore now confers an individual WOC place in the KO sprint to the winners as Oceania Champions. Should Oceania be cancelled in January, the agreed plan between AUS and NZL is that, subject to IOF approval and open borders, a KO sprint and individual sprint Oceania Championships will be held as part of Melbourne Sprint Weekend on 12/13 March.
Also of note is that the selection process for AUS or NZL to represent Oceania at the 2022 World Games has to be completed by 31 January. This is presently set down to be decided at the 7 January sprint relay and the Oceania sprint and middle distance races. However, if Oceania is cancelled the decision is made based on the IOF nations league table. This is based on the World Ranking points of the top 10 ranked men and women in each country and, sadly, NZL lags well behind AUS on this table. Hence if Oceania does not go ahead the World Games place will go to Australia.
This, of course, leads to the question as to why do AUS come out ahead of NZL on the nations table when, demonstrably, in recent years NZL has had superior results at the top level. This is not an easy question to answer, but some analysis is ongoing which will be reported on in due course.