Coach report | JWOC 2022 Portugal
When the 2022 NZ JWOC Team arrived in Aguiar da Beria, it seemed just like any old JWOC. The older half of the team had been there since Saturday 3rd and so had a day of sprints and a day of forest training under their belts already when I rocked up late on Monday 4th. The younger half who had been busy smashing it out in EYOC arrived the next morning and so we all began the training week I had planned with a control pick, done in pairs with each one having one who had already tested the terrain, and one who was fresh from EYOC. Everyone worked hard throughout the 4 days of training and it was amazing to start to see people coming back from a course or exercise saying they had started to nail some controls and legs, and by the final training (a 1.1km middle sim) everyone had mostly mastered the Portugese rocks.
Friday had a speedy sprint around Dornelas and after that we put our speedy legs to the side to rest up for the races. Out team meeting that night started out like any other, with trying to corral everyone into the same place at the same time, and then going to the plan for the next day. Just as we had started to discuss what we thought the best advice would be for someone just starting out in the Portugese forest, Jenni began to read aloud an official email…
The cancellation of the forest events was certainly a big shock, and to have it so close to the race week seemed impossible. After a late night swim with the athletes from the other countries staying at our hotel, and a bigger than expected sleep-in, we turned to full sprint-focus and everyone took it like a champ. I am very proud of the whole team!
The sprint day rolled around and after an early morning and getting everyone through quarantine and into their start, I headed back to the arena to find out how everyone had done. While the numbers may not have been too flash, everyone seemed to have really enjoyed the race (except for the uphill finish maybe) and that’s all a coach can ask for. In my opinion it looked like the most technical JWOC sprint in quite a few years.
The sprint relay wasn’t something anyone had prepared for, but the focus was turned on and everyone was excited to race the first ever JWOC sprint relay. It was amazing seeing Penelope coming back in the top pack, and everyone pushed hard in another very physical race that didn’t let up on the technical side either. With hopefully more relays and sprint relays held in New Zealand in the coming years everyone will gain the experience to put on some great performances in the future.
Three rest days provided for a lot more social time than a normal JWOC, and NZ made a lot of new friends which is always great to see, and even put on their own events which were a great hit with everyone!
The urban relay was a great way to end the week with the chance to get more relay practice, and the atmosphere of the relay is always great with everyone cheering everyone on. The all-important coaches race was done, with two NZ entries (myself and Tommy Hayes) and the notes from the crowd were that we performed very well especially at the drinks stop. The party was a great way to cap off the week, with everyone from NZ having a really good time, and solidifying friendships they had made during the week, and even new ones. As any orienteer tripping around Europe knows, it’s important to have friends with couches in lots of countries!
Overall, while it may not have been what the athletes were looking forward to, JWOC Part 1: Sprint edition was still an amazing week that provided invaluable experience to everyone and I am very excited to see what is in store for each of them next year and into the future!
Manager’s report | JWOC
After a two year Covid-enforced absence the New Zealand team was back at JWOC, and they were hot! A little too hot actually, with the extreme 40-degree temperatures in Portugal and the resulting bush fires, meaning that the Portuguese government imposed a nationwide ban on entering any forests, forcing the postponement of all of the JWOC races except the sprint. This announcement, made two days before the opening ceremony, was extremely disappointing for all of the competitors, and undoubtedly, also for the organisers who had set out to organise “the best JWOC ever”.
It did indeed look on-track to be a JWOC deserving of that description, with challenging, forested granite terrain and a passionate organising team who had really pulled out all stops to welcome the competitors and lift the profile of the event. This included massive event billboards around the host town, banners on many of the telegraph poles and leaflets and posters in shops.
Moving on from the initial disappointment of no forest races, the events which did proceed were fantastic and a great experience for the competitors and spectators. In place of the forest events two additional urban events were organised: the first ever JWOC mixed sprint relay and an urban relay with three person teams of the same gender, similar to the usual forest relay competition but with sprint style courses. These additional events were organised with only a few days’ notice, but were of excellent quality, and both provided exciting head-to-head racing.
The first race of the week was the JWOC individual sprint, held as originally planned in the village of Carapito, offering maze-like route choices through the narrow cobblestoned paths with the extra technical, and physical, challenge of a reasonably significant slope across the town. The quaint little village offered a really special experience unlike anything ever encountered in New Zealand. The New Zealand team all struggled somewhat with the extreme heat, and the fact that many of the team were suffering from colds, and the recent, or long-lasting, effects of covid, which unfortunately meant that the true potential of the team was not fully realised. However, Penelope Salmon very nearly followed up on her impressive WOC debut with a top placing, finishing with a time which would have been a 9th place… if the third-to-last control had registered on her sport ident. Unfortunately, it hadn’t, and instead New Zealand’s best placing was Zara Stewart’s 58th with other top half placings achieved by Ryan Moore (63rd), Kaia Joergensen (67th ) and Felix Hunt (68th).
Carapito, was also the venue for the mixed sprint relay, an event that was planned to only become part of the JWOC races from next year. But after the postponement of the forest races, Portugal were able to take the honour of holding the first ever JWOC sprint relay. The format and order was the same as that followed at WOC: four person teams with the first leg run by a woman, the second and third by men and the final leg again run by a woman. At JWOC, each nation was able to enter two teams, with additional teams able to enter a B race held on the same courses but after the main race was completed. This ruling which was met with some objection; given the emphasis at JWOC on participation it was felt that all of a nation’s possible 12 runners should be able to compete in the main relay. The decision to limit the number of teams was based on safety and the anticipated crowding in the narrow village alley ways. In fact this wasn’t an issue this year and it is hoped that the IOF will allow three competitive teams in future years.
The New Zealand A team had an amazing start with Penelope handing over to Ryan in 2nd place.Unfortunately Ryan was feeling the effects of some kind of virus. He struggled valiantly however and handed over to Felix Hunt only 2 minutes 40 seconds behind the leaders, Felix ran strongly to send Zara out just under 4 minutes down. Zara was also struggling with a virus but ran cleanly to bring the team to the finish just under 8 minutes after the Norwegian gold medalists. The New Zealand B team ran an overall very similar race. Although Kaia was just over a minute after Penelope on the first leg, the remaining runners Cameron Bonar, Fergus O’Neill and Tessa Burns ran slightly faster than their ‘A’ team compatriots and in fact finished one place and 10s ahead of the A team. In the final ranking, which only counts the best team from each country, New Zealand was 18th not far behind the best British team, and most importantly beating Australia, whose top team although slightly quicker had mis-punched. In the ‘B’ race, unfortunately, Rachel Baker mispunched on first leg but it was still a valuable experience for the team who raced hard in the searing heat.
The final event of the week was a three person relay held in another small cobble-stoned village, Dornales which again offered many route choices and exciting racing with the lead of both races changing several times. In the men’s race there were many mispunches, including one from the New Zealand team’s first leg, Cameron Bonar who skipped over control in a sequence of short legs. Again the heat, made the conditions very challenging, and not the easiest for the New Zealand team, who had been wrapping up warm in New Zealand’s winter only two-three weeks earlier. All of the team ran similarly with times around 3-4 minutes behind the fastest runners.
Although there weren’t any forest races during the week, the New Zealand team did enjoy a good week of training in the Portuguese forests in the week before JWOC and were glad they had had the chance to experience the challenges of the intricate granite detail, even if it wasn’t to race in it. The terrain was in fact, very similar to many Australian areas, even with gum trees in some parts, and for this reason felt comfortably familiar to many of the team.
The team was very grateful to their coach Briana Steven, who provided weekly preparation for the months before JWOC, and excellent training exercises in Portugal along with their various chauffeurs Paul Salmon, Sarah Hague, Carsten Joergensen and Jenni Adams.
While not quite the JWOC event they’d anticipated attending, the team all enjoyed their experience immensely with one team member rating his two weeks in Europe, as two of the best weeks of his life so far! It will be exciting to watch the team’s progress in future years, with nine of the twelve team members eligible to compete again next year, the experience this year will provide a basis for future strong performances.
JWOC 2022 Team manager | Jenni Adams
Maps of Sprint relay here
Event photos sourced from: Município Aguiar da Beira, Christophe Amerijckx, Kell Sønnichsen, Paul Salmon, Scott Bailey