Thursday, July 20, 2006

WOC-8: This precious stone set in the silver sea

WOC 95 was in Germany, based in the town of Detmold. If you think it has been hot this week in Britain then think again. Germany was hotter. And it had hills. And vegetation. And more British medals, so the travelling fans had quite a lot to cheer about. And for the techies amongst you, this was the first WOC to use electronic punching. The Emit system caught a few out, but was here to stay.

The short race produced one of the first signs of the Swiss women's coming dominance, with gold going to Marie-Luce Romanens. Yvette Hague took silver, and we cheered a lot. But the men's race, and particularly the prize giving, was more interesting. An unknown (at least to most of us) Ukrainian stormed round to victory. Yuri Omeltchenko was such a surprise winner that the team manager had to sing the National Anthem at the prize giving since they didn't have a tape to play.

The classic race included a lap of the enormous statue on the main hill overlooking the town, followed by some typical continental terrain with fairly straightforward contours with big hills, detailed vegetation and an extensive path network. All the talk beforehand and the analysis afterwards focused on how critical the long route choice legs would be. One day I'll get round to writing up the details that show this was all nonsense. The long leg on the women's course produced different route choices where the leaders all turned out to take about the same time. A trivial path leg near the end was much more critical, where the Hungarian Katalin Olah took nearly a minute out of nearly everybody else on what looks like a leg with no technical merit at all. She was simply running faster than anyone else when it mattered. Behind her Yvette took another silver medal. The British spectators were getting spoiled by this stage, and I don't think we ever appreciated what a performance it was to take two silver individual medals at the same World Championships.

The relay changeover was in a field on top of a hill. The last leg seemed to involve a huge climb up the hill, and finishers looked suitably shattered as they came into view. The British men were fighting for the sixth and last podium place on the last leg, and Steve Hale was announced at the radio control at the bottom of the hill at the same time as Carsten Jorgenson of Denmark. Everyone thought it was clear that Steve would be outrun up the hill by the man famous at that stage for being European cross-country champion. But it was Hale who made it to the top first to take sixth place. We cheered a lot. Carsten is clearly still in good shape, and has just been selected for WOC 2006. His unmistakable running style will certainly give the home crowd something to look forward to.

And finally some good news for British fans David "BJ" Brickhill-Jones has been declared fit and will take part in the sprint race. August 1st could be another historic day for British orienteering.

No comments: