WTOC: New Relay format brings medals to new nations

Posted on | September 1, 2016 | Category: Newsletter

TempO podium, with 6 different nations represented. L. to r. Marit Wiksell SWE, Lars Jakob Waaler NOR, Pinja Mäkinen FIN, Iva Lovrec CRO, Remo Madella ITA, Kreso Kerestes SLO.  Photo: Joaquim Margarido

Back in Sweden for the first time since the inaugural WTOC in 2004, this 13th edition was also the occasion for a new landmark: a longer championships than ever before, with the new Relay format providing two extra sets of medals to be won.

New Relay a great success
Trialled in Croatia last year, the Relay was the final competition of the Championships and proved to be a great success. The Open race reached a climax with a large crowd watching as Ján Furucz, TempO bronze medallist at the European Championships in May and here the last leg competitor for Slovakia, came up to the final TempO station with the gold medal beckoning. Could he maintain his calm and come up with a correct set of responses in the time available? The answer was yes, and with style! Five answers in 20 seconds, clear fastest of the day and all correct. Wow! Gold to Slovakia, two places better than their European Championships performance, and silver to Portugal, both teams having a ‘clean run’ out on the course but Portugal slower in the TempO section. This result would have brought a big return in a bet as both countries were seen as strong, but not top medal contenders; for both countries these were their first WTOC medals. Finland took bronze.
In the Paralympic class, Sweden and Ukraine both got one task wrong out on the course; Sweden mastered the TempO controls better so it was gold to Sweden, silver to Ukraine and it was again bronze medals to Finland.

TempO: dream win for Lars Jakob Waaler
The first competition in WTOC was the TempO, the ‘sprint’ form of TrailO where everything is timed and Paralympic and Open competitors compete on equal terms. It was held in two parts: qualification, then final. Eighteen competitors from each of two heats qualified for the final. Lars Jakob Waaler, Norway, won the world title in the beautiful surroundings of Strömstad.
A veteran of WTOC, having competed in every edition so far, Waaler did a great race, leaving behind him two of the most brilliant trail orienteers ever, the Swede Marit Wiksell and the Finn Pinja Makinen; the latter was the first TempO World Champion (Vuokatti, 2013). The big surprise came in fourth place, taken by the talented 19-year-old Croatian Iva Lovrec.
Waaler was IOF Event Adviser for the European TrailO Championships earlier this year, and the next big challenge was to be WTOC where he said, in an interview in the August IOF Newsletter: “My goal for the Championships is to get an individual medal, since that is what is missing in my collection.” So dream fulfilled! According to his words, it will be possible to see Lars doing Trail Orienteering for many years: “I want to compete in TrailO, hopefully at the highest level, as long as I enjoy it. I have no big plans for how long I will keep on, but TrailO is a discipline that you can continue with until old age,” Lars says.

Sweden dominant in PreO
PreO, the ‘classic’ form of TrailO, was as usual a two-day competition. Day 1 was held beside the Swedish west coast at Saltö, with the final group of kites set out on the cliffs. 61 competitors in the Open class and 38 in the Paralympic class faced a really challenging course. Eight Open competitors solved all the tasks successfully, with Martin Jullum, Norway being the fastest in the timed station and so taking the lead. With the first and the seventh competitors 15 seconds apart from each other, Sweden had four athletes in ‘pole position’ for the decisive day. In the Paralympic class the Russian Pavel Shmatov was the only one who answered all the tasks correctly, finishing with a comfortable two-point lead.
At the end of Day 2, held in the windmill park at Tolvmanstegen, the Swedes Michael Johansson and Martin Fredholm were the winners of the gold medals in the Paralympic and Open classes respectively. Both athletes repeated their excellent performances from the first day.
In the Paralympic class, the Russian Pavel Shmatov wasn’t able to deal with the pressure of his two-point advantage, and with two mistakes dropped to second position with 46 points and 122 seconds overall. With a clean race, the Swedish Michael Johansson joined Shmatov in the lead, but a better performance at the timed stations gave him the gold, which he also won in 2014. Ola Jansson, Sweden finished third, one point behind the winner.
Martin Fredholm completed his thirteenth presence in as many editions of WTOC in the best possible way, winning gold for the first time in ten years. The Norwegian Martin Jullum took the silver, leading a six-competitor group with 47 points. With 9.5 seconds longer on the timed controls than Jullum, the Latvian Janis Ruksans got the bronze medal.
Sweden can look back on a week with good organisation and very challenging and varied courses, and five medal placings – five more than they achieved in Croatia in 2015.
Next year’s World Trail Orienteering Championships are in Lithuania in mid-July.

Clive Allen

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