JWOC and WOC are now behind us, although the second round of the World Cup is ongoing at the time of writing. Both of the premiere junior and senior events can only be regarded as having been successful from a New Zealand perspective. As much has already been written about them on various forums, I restrict myself to more general comments and a brief summary of the results. However, in both cases a lot of credit must go to the officials who have helped to prepare, and to accompany, these teams for and in their endeavours. So, for JWOC a big thanks to Jenni Adams, Carsten Joergensen and Kieran Woods, and for WOC an especially big acknowledgement to Swiss coach Florian Schneider. With you guys none of this would be possible.
Although New Zealand, courtesy of Tim Robertson, Tommy Hayes and Matt Ogden, has 5 previous medals at JWOC, the overall team performance in 2023 in Romania must rank as the best ever. Although it is always easy to argue with statistics, particularly my simple ones, if 4 points are awarded in the individual races for a place in the top 25% of the field, 3 points for the top 50%, 2 for the top 75% and 1 for the bottom 25%, with a slight modification for the years when the middle distance had qualification and then A, B and C finals, then the table below shows the outcome.
Obviously, to a certain extent, the results reflect the size of team in each year, and they do not include relay results, but on the face of it they show that 2023 exceeds all other years back to 2011 in terms of overall performance. If we also include the excellent relay results from 2023, notwithstanding the disappointment of the sprint relay disqualification, the picture is highly unlikely to change. So, to the actual results. Perhaps, finally, we are starting to make our mark…
The standout individual performances were the podium finishes from Penelope Salmon (6th in the sprint) and Zefa Fa’avae (5th in the long), but there were excellent runs also from Nathan Borton and Anna Babington in the sprint, and Zefa and Kai Joergensen in the middle, as well as solid all-round performances from the entire team. The relay results of 9th for the top men’s team and 12th for the women (8th and 9th when second teams from individual countries are excluded) were exceptional. But for the mishap in the sprint relay that too would have been a podium place. What these results mean for how we prepare for 2024 in Czechia is now under consideration.
In terms of the results, in the sprint one of the noticeable features was the spread of different nations in the top 10. Indeed, the titles went to German and Hungarian athletes and there were no Swedes in the top 10 of either the men’s or women’s races. Special kudos to the NZL women for whom 5 finished in the top half of the field and the 6th only just outside.
Men: 1. Anselm Reichenbach (GER) 15:47, 2. Guilhem Verove (FRA) 15:55, 3. Jurgen Joonas (EST) 15:56. 18. Nathan Borton 16:44, 35. Zefa Fa’avae 17:16, 79. Felix Hunt 18:10, 103. Fergus O’Neill 18:38. 119. Riley Croxford 19:05, 127. Ryan Moore 19:15.
Women: 1. Rita Maramarosi (HUN) 15:13, 2. Pia Young Vik (NOR) 15:37, 3. Eeva Liina Ojahano (FIN) 15:50, 6. Penelope Salmon 16:03, 28. Anna Babington 17:12, 41. Kaia joergensen 17:39, 50. Zara Stewart 18:04, 68. Rachel Baker 18:31, 78. Katherine Babington 18:56.
As all are now probably aware the sprint relay was a case of what might have been. Although New Zealand’s top team crossed the line in 5th place they were disqualified due to there being no “proof” that Penelope, on the first leg, had visited the first few controls. The reason behind this is long and complicated, but suffice to say that although the Protest Jury agreed that there had been a mistake by the organisers they stuck to the letter of the rules and confirmed the disqualification. It is a credit to Nathan, Zefa and kaia that even after knowing of this they gave it their all on the subsequent legs. The second NZL team also performed well to finish in the top half of the large field.
1. Hungary 1 49:44, 2. Norway 1 49:57, 3. Finland 1 50:11, 26. New Zealand 2 (Anna Babington, Fergus O’Neill, Riley Croxford, Zara Stewart) 56:04, New Zealand 1 (Penelope Salmon, Nathan Borton, Zefa Fa’avae, Kaia Joergensen) DSQ.
The middle distance results had a much more familiar look about them with the wins going to Swedish and Swiss athletes, and only Czechia and Hungary disturbing the usual powerhouses of Scandinavia and Switzerland in the top 10s. But for a single mistake Zefa would have joined them in doing that.
Men: 1. Hannes Mogensen (SWE) 24:39. 2. Jakub Chaloupsky (CZE) 25:22, 3. Oscar David Brom Jensen (DEN) 25:55, 11. Zefa Fa’avae 27:54, 42. Felix Hunt 30:35, 68. Ryan Moore 32:28, 75. Nathan Borton 32:59, 95. Riley Croxford 34:05, 126. Fergus O’Neill 37:28.
Women: 1. Henriette Radzikowski (SUI) 25:42, 2. Lucie Dittrichova (CZE) 25:46, 3. Pia Young Vik (NOR) 25:56, 18. Kaia Joergensen 27:42, 62. Rachel Baker 33:07, 71. Penelope Salmon 34:04, 82. Zara Stewart 35:51, 83. Katherine Babington 35:52, Anna Babington DNF.
Switzerland dominated the men’s long distance with 4 in the top 10, although the title went Czechia’s way, as did the women’s gold medal (by 1 second). Zefa was outstanding. Kaia, unfortunately Kaia mispunched having recorded a time that would have put her in the top 30.
Men: 1. Jakub Chaloupsky (CZE) 1:11:12, 2. Noel Braun (SWE) 1:14:28, 3. Pascal Schaerer (SUI) 1:15:12, 5. Zefa Fa’avae 1:15:54, 57. Felix Hunt 1:31:38, 105. Fergus O’Neill 1:41:11, 132. Riley Croxford 1:57:12, 133. Ryan Moore 1:59:53, 138. Nathan Borton 2:06:36.
Women: 1. Lucie Dittrichova (CZE) 57:28, 2. Henriette Radzikowski (SUI) 57:29, 3. Pia Young Vik (NOR) 58:33, 48. Rachel Baker 1:13:56, 50. Katherine Babington 1:14:57, 63. Anna Babington 1:16:41, 66. Penelope Salmon 1:17:02, 84. Zara Stewart 1:23:12, Kaia Joergensen mp.
The relay, as commented above, produced excellent NZL results. A storming run by Zefa on the 3rd leg putting the men’s 1 team in 9th place. The women’s first team were close to being even better, however an uncharacteristic error mid-course by Kaia cost about 5 minutes without which the podium beckoned. The second women’s team also ran very well coming in 15th overall. Czechia and Hungary finished what were fabulous weeks for them with wins.
Men: 1. Czechia 1 1:34:33, 2. Switzerland 2 1;34:52, 3. Switzerland 1 1:35:31, 9. New Zealand 1 (Felix Hunt, Ryan Moore, Zefa Fa’avae) 1:40:58, 34. New Zealand 2 (Nathan Borton, Fergus O’Neill, Riley Croxford) 2:01:17.
Women: 1. Hungary 1 1:20:44, 2. Czechia 1 1:20:45, 3. Norway 1 1:21:14, 12. New Zealand 1 (Penelope Salmon, Rachel Baker, Kaia Joergensen) 1:33:49, 15. New Zealand 2 (Anna Babington, Katherine Babington, Zara Stewart) 1:36:52.
The 2023 WOC team was possibly the best prepared that New Zealand has ever had. The availability of training accommodation, courtesy of Floiran Scheider’s family, close to the WOC venue at Flims-Laax, coupled with Florian’s knowledge of the terrain, was unprecedented in NZL WOC experience. Training in the terrain for up to a month prior to the competition can only have positive benefits, while the introduction of a very wet team-building river raft through the Rhine Gorge was a real novelty. Whether such experience can be replicated for future WOCs is an open question. Ultimately, WOC2023 saw some highly encouraging performances, especially from the more experienced team members, whilst also seeing a good introduction to the highest level of orienteering for those new to WOC.
Middle distance qualifying saw Lizzie Ingham, Matt Ogden and Tim Robertson make it through to the final with varying degree of ease. Unfortunately, Joseph Lynch was badly ill the night before the race, diagnosed later as heat stroke, and this almost certainly robbed him of a place in the final. With 15 from each heat to qualify, Amelia Horne was also relatively close to qualifying with only small mistakes ending her middle distance campaigns. Kaia Jorgensen and Briana Steven were further from the cut, although Kaia looked to be on track until a mistake 2 controls from the end. Between them, Swiss and Swedish athletes won all of the heats.
Men Heat 1: 1. Joey Hadorn (SUI) 27:46, 2. Lucas Basset (FRA) 28 :50, 3. Gustav Bergman (SWE) 29:42, 17. Joseph Lynch 33:25.
Men Heat 2: 1. Albin Ridefelt (SWE) 27:42, 2. Kasper Harlem Fosser (NOR) 28:53, 3. Anton Johansson (SWE) 29:12, 13. Matt Ogden 32:26.
Men Heat 3: 1. Matthis Kyburz (SUI) 28:20, 2. Gaute Steiwer (NOR) 29:47, 3. Emil Svensk (SWE) 29:55, 10. Tim Robertson 32:55.
Women Heat 1: 1. Hanna Lundberg (SWE) 26:27, 2. Evely Kaasiku (EST) 28:24, 3. Cecile Friberg Klyser (DEN) 28 :41, 18. Amelia Horne 35 :35.
Women Heat 2 : 1. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 24:51, 2. Natalia Gemperle (SUI) 27:33, 3. Marika Teini (FIN) 28 :05, 23. Kaia Joergensen 37:41.
Women Heat 3 : 1. Simona Aebersold (SUI) 25 :27, 2. Sara Hagstrom (SWE) 27:47, 3. Megan Carter Davies (GBR) 27:54, 6. Lizzie Ingham 30:13, 27. Briana Steven 44:53.
Quarantine and start for the long distance required a trip up on the cable car to nearly 2000 m. The courses then traversed across the alpine slopes before a rapid and steep descent of about 1000 m, to a map change and a hilly loop through the forest leading into the arena. A feature of the alpine slopes was that considerable tracking developed. This undoubtedly worked against all the NZL runners who had sufficiently early start times (based on world ranking) that they derived little or no benefit from this. In essence Lizzie (25th), Toby Scott (32nd) and Gene Beveridge (36th) all had excellent runs and with later start times would probably have broken the top 20(30). Amelia and Brians Steven, the other Kiwis in the women’s race had long days at the office. The title went to NOR and Switzerland through the current “golden couple” of Kasper Harlem Fosser and Simona Aebersold.
Men: 1. Kasper Harlem Fosser (NOR) 1:33:06, 2. Matthias Kyburz (SUI) 1:33:57, 3. Olli Ojanaho (FIN) 1:37:37, 32. Toby Scott 1:56:25, 36. Gene Beveridge 1:58:21.
Women: 1. Simona Aebersold (SUI) 1:21:43, 2. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 1:22:14, 3. Andrine Benjaminsen (NOR) 1:29:03, 25. Lizzie Ingham 1:44:50, 61. Amelia Horne 2:19:29, 66. Briana Steven 2:37:32.
All three of the middle distance finalists held realistic hopes of at least top 20 finishes. In the end a highly technical and physical course, which caused problems for many, including some of the favourites, left Lizzie, Matt and Tim all feeling relatively disappointed. Under trying conditions all three persevered finishing 42nd, 40th and 42nd respectively, perhaps showing that even with the best preparation things can go awry. Again, it is a credit to all three that they picked themselves up both mentally and physically for the following day’s relay. The difficulty of the courses was partly reflected in that, with expected winning times of 35 minutes, only three people got under 40 minutes.
Men: 1. Matthias Kyburz (SUI) 38:19, 2. Joey Hadorn (SUI) 40:19, 3. Jannis Bonek (AUT) 40:26, 40. Matt Ogden 51:47, 42. Tim Robertson 53:11.
Women: 1. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 37:26, 2. Natalia Gemperle (SUI) 39:44, 3. Hanna Lumberg (SWE) 40:00, 42. Lizzie Ingham 56:58.
An unusual feature of the relays was that the first leg runners, after finishing, were allowed back into quarantine and able to discuss the course with the third leg runners who had yet to go out (or in the case of the women who had yet to start, the while team). For the men Toby had the team in 15th place, Matt held this, and Tim has NZL looking at 13th place until aminor error near the end put the team back in 15th. This was the highest finish by a NZL men’s team at WOC since the relay changed from 4 people to 3 in the early 2000’s. For the women Amelia bravely took on the first leg and came in 20th. Lizzie then pulled up 2 places and put Kaia, on the last keg, close enough to catch up 2 further places. The final 16th was the best by the women since Scotland in 2015, and with 2 newcomers to WOC in the team was also an excellent result. Switzerland and the Scandinavians fought it out at the top.
Men: 1. Switzerland 1:57:16, 2. Finland 1:57:59, 3. Sweden 1:58:13, 15. New Zealand (Toby Scott, Matt Ogden, Tim Robertson) 2:17:14.
Women: 1. Sweden 1:47:26, 2. Switzerland 1:51:54, 3. Norway 1:57:25, 16. New Zealand (Amelia Horne, Lizzie Ingham, Kaia Joergensen) 2:27:07.
Following further discussions with High Performance Sport New Zealand two junior athletes – Felix Hunt and Kaia Joergensen – have been offered places in the regional centre in Christchurch. This is aimed at helping athletes to develop long term programmes and to give them additional external support. It is hoped that further junior athletes can be added to this although, at present, only the regional centre in Christchurch is involved.