The small but vociferous contingent of New Zealand supporters in the arena at the Flims-Laax sports centre were rewarded by excellent runs from Lizzie Ingham, Toby Scott and Gene Beveridge in today’s WOC long distance.
The race started high up near the top of the cable car at 2000 m and featured early long legs across the steep, partly open, partly forested, slopes before descending about 1000 m to a tough last loop in the forest to the south of the arena. The first two Kiwi starters, Amelia Horne and Briana Steven, both at their first WOC, found it tough going, taking times of over 2 hours for the 11 km women’s course. Lizzie, with a later start, and nearly 20 years of JWOC/WOC experience ran a controlled, and mostly clean, race to finish in 25th place in1:44:50, just over 3 minutes outside the top 20. The women’s race went to local favourite Simona Aebersold who pushed perennial WOC champion Tove Alexanderrson into second place.
The men started after the women, with Gene first of the Kiwis off. Like Lizzie, both he and Toby have vast experience and ran very steady races, both only being pushed out of the top 30 right at the very end, Toby finishing 32nd (1:56:25) and Gene 36th (1:58:21) with the two Australian runners, Brodie Nankervis and Henry McNulty between them – impressive Oceania packing! The men’s race went down to the wire with Matthias Kyburz looking like making it a double Swiss gold until he chose the wrong route choice on the leg back towards the arena, letting defending champion Kasper Harrem Fosser in.
Women: 1. Simona Aebersold (SUI) 1:21:43, 2. Tove Alexanderssson (SWE) 1:22:14, 3.Andrine Benjaminsen (NOR) 1:29:03, 25. Lizzie 1:44:50, 61. Amelia 2:19:29, 66. Briana 2:37:32.
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 1:56:25, 36. Gene 1:58:21.
Interestingly these positions are almost identical to those achieved in Norway in 2019, where Lizzie was again 25th, Toby was 30th and Gene 34th. One point that has come up in discussion though is that today’s race led to a lot of tracking in the generally damp terrain at high altitude. All the Kiwis had relatively early start times (based on World Ranking) and felt that times maybe 30-45 minutes later would have led to significantly improved finish positions.