The first World Orienteering Championships (WOC) to include only the three sprint formats: individual sprint, knockout sprint and sprint relay, took place in Denmark in late June. It was very well-organized, with venues being the cities of Kolding, Fredericia and Vejle.
Great Success for GB Team
You may have watched the races, and I expect you will have read elsewhere that Great Britain had a very successful championships, winning a first WOC medal in the Sprint Relay. It was GB’s first medal after seven championships without one. The team went on to win four medals, which is as many as in the previous 17 years combined.
The WOC were brilliantly organized races and a vast number of volunteer marshalls to ensure everything went smoothly, a great especially for a sprint championships with so much fine detail and timing involved.
The accompanying “WOC Tour” of six races, a mix of forest and sprint, using the same maps as WOC was also very successful and popular with many of the British supporters. Sarah-Jane Barrable of SLOW was on the big stage for the Tour prizegiving. All World Champs have so-called spectator races and keen orienteers might like to consider future trips. In the past there has been a view that WOC forests, especially those used for the middle races, are not that much fun as they are so tough, but for a sprint World Champs that is not a concern.
The next Sprint World Champs are in Edinburgh in 2024.
The biggest GB star was Megan Carter-Davies who won threee medals: a silver as the anchor leg of the sprint relay team, another silver in the knockout sprint, and then, on the final day of the champs, the gold in the classic sprint .
Thanks to all GB Supporters
All the athletes were keen to take the opportunity to pay tribute to all the people that have helped them over many many years: organizers and planners for all the races they have done, training partners, coaches, teammates in the major domestic races and so on .
There were eight athletes in the team including SLOW’s Ralph Street.
- Alice Leake (AIRE)
- Charlotte Ward (HALO)
- Grace Molloy (FVO)
- Jonathan Crickmore (SYO)
- Kris Jones (FVO)
- Megan Carter-Davies (SBOC)
- Nathan Lawson (OD)
- Ralph Street (SLOW)
All had run at WOC before: Alice, Charlotte, Kris, Megan and Ralph had 25 WOC appearances between them. Of course a tremendous amount of hard work has gone into their getting where they are with their orienteering. “Our sport is a big experience game” as the great Carol McNeill said in an interview during lockdown.
They all show their running ability outside orienteering from time to time. They have county cross-country vests, good results in trail and fell races and fine road and track times. Kris in particular has been hugely successful away from orienteering with a European Cross Country team silver medal, a GB track vest and a 63:05 half-marathon.
Emil Wingstedt, who won seven WOC medals, has been assisting the GB team for several years and has been lead coach in the run-up to these championships. You can see Emil’s well received presentation to a British Orienteering Development Conference on the Federation YouTube channel.
Many people have been helping and working with the athletes over the years. The GB team for many recent internationals has been managed by Murray Strain, who ran the sprint at WOC for GB six times, always finishing in the top 20.
Strength in Depth
That Great Britain is relatively strong in sprint orienteering compared to forest was made clear at the Championships. As well as the first sprint relay medal (GB had previously come, 6th, 15th, 4th, 6th, 7th and 6th), and three individual medals, there were two other podium (top 6) places, two other top-10 results, and three other top-20 results. In the knockout sprint five GBR athletes reached the semi-final stage (of 36 athletes in all), a number equalled only by Sweden. And Kris Jones was close to a medal in the individual sprint – he had run past a control to disqualify what was thought to be the bronze as he finished (he was last starter.)
Our YouTube channel which we share with the GB athlete “fan site” On The Red Line, has six interviews with the GB World Championship athletes recorded soon after the racing The interviewer is Katherine Bett, who with Jonas Merz provides the commentary for the international broadcasts .
The arena was at Kolding Castle, it was sunny and being a Sunday the crowds were out. They had plenty to encourage them too as well as Denmark were right in the mix and in bronze medal position as the last leg began. Dannebrog waving and cheering was very much the thing to do.
The GB silver medal team was (in running order) Charlotte Ward, Ralph Street, Kris Jones and Megan Carter-Davies.
One of the back stories:
In 2010 Denmark hosted the Junior World Championships (JWOC) and the British team included Kris Jones and Ralph Street. They already knew each other when they met in a car park in Sheffield as they started University in September 2009, but that marked the time when their orienteering paths became close. With Chris Smithard, Dave Schorah, John Rocke and others in ShUOC there was plenty happening, and in Graham Gristwood they had a mentor. They won the JK Relay and the Harvester in 2010. The club staged the Harvester the next year, Chris organising, Kris mapping and Ralph co-planning (with Laura Goy née Daniel.) In the years since their paths have coincided several times, and they have got on a WOC relay podium together three times (two forest, one sprint). They had a noteable 1-2 on Jukola’s first leg in 2018.
How it was, how it’s going….
The knockout sprints were in Fredericia, a major communications hub nowadays, historically a garrison town with a rectilinear street pattern and ramparts, both prominent features of the orienteering map. Early in the day there were qualification heats finishing near the beach, with the first 12 in each of three heats for each of the men’s and women’s making the knockout stages. All six British athletes made it through. There was then a “draw” for the quarter-finals, athletes taking it in turn to decide which quarter-final to run in. Most of the athletes have resting for the knockout rounds very much in mind.
Late in the afternoon the athletes and crowds gathered in the main arena in the center of Fredericia. The finals comprise six runner races. In the “quarter-finals” the first three runners progress to the next round. In the semi-finals only the first two. And then it’s the two finals.
There were twelve “quarter-finals”, each taking 7-8 minutes, and starting at 6 minute intervals. These were broadcast free-of-charge on the Live Orienteering Channel. This was the most spectacular, with the races being very different in style. At the time of posting you can re-watch:
There were then three “semi-finals” for each of men and women, with just the first two runners getting to the final.
Five of the GB runners made the semi-final stage, Grace Molloy being the one not to make the first three in her race – she was fourth. Of the five GB runners in the semis Kris and Megan qualified for their finals.
Kris and Megan ran good semi-finals in a similar style, leading from the front.
Ralph, who had a fierce sprint finish in his quarter-final was overtaken on the run-in in his semi by the eventual silver medallist August Mollén (who has a 3:47 1500m). By some magic Ralph’s performance was adjudged as seventh in the competition.
Jonny Crickmore, in the same semi as Kris, came fourth, and Charlotte was also fourth in her semi.
The final was won by Tove Alexandersson, whose speed took her away from all the other runners. Megan led the rest of the field home to win silver.
The individual (or “classic”) sprint was the familiar morning qualification (15 runners from each of three heats) followed by finals, 45 runners at one minute intervals, men and then women, that could be live on early evening television in the eight countries where TV was broadcasting. The racing was in Vejle, which would be departure city for The Tour de France three days later.
Five of the six British runners qualified for the final, Nathan Lawson missing out, nineteenth in his heat.
The men’s race was first. Kris was the last starter having won his qualification race (as had Charlotte and Megan theirs.) We all thought he was the bronze medallist from his time at the finish. But sadly he had not punched control 12, although he had run by it. It meant that the Belgian Yannick Michiels, who has won many medals in other competitions, satisfied his long quest for a WOC medal with the bronze. The gold was won by Kasper Fosser of Norway, and the silver by Gustav Bergman of Sweden. Kris’s mispunch also meant Ralph was sixth rather than seventh, becoming the sixth British man to make “the podium” (top 6) of an individual World Champs race. (The others are Kris, Graham Gristwood, Steve Hale, Scott Fraser and Jamie Stevenson. Scott and Jamie did it multiple times and won medals.) Ralph said he would much prefer to be seventh and Kris to have a medal.
In a sensational result, two British athletes won medals in the women’s race. Megan winning gold and Alice Leake bronze.
If you are curious to know more a good place to start is to look at the maps and detailed results at IOF Live Orienteering. There is a tab for each of the races.
As Megan was the last starter it was known she was the winner as she finished.