Wednesday, July 19, 2006

WOC-9: The Fab Four

There is no doubt that WOC93 was, and still remains, my favourite WOC. The areas, in Harriman State Park just north of New York, were fantastic. The Americans surprised everybody by managing not only to put on the World Championships but also to stage a very large multi-day event for spectators as well. Yvette finally got the medal we all knew she would get eventually. And to top it all, the British men had one of those days that you can only dream of, and took away a silver medal in the relay.

I've written previously about both the classic race, where Yvette finally got her first medal, and the week as a whole. All of the relevant facts are there already: Hale running the wrong side of a tree to miss a medal by one second in the short race; the pouring rain and rugged terrain that was the classic race; hoping but not knowing for sure that Yvette had her medal, until the sound of the Clive Allen interview told us she must surely have done it this time; the gradual realisation that first Palmer and then Hale were taking the rest of the world apart to put Britain within sight of the gold medal as the injured Swiss runner collapsed over the line to win. This is definitely what being a spectator at the World Championships is all about.

What you won't find in those reports are those other little details that I can still recall. The chaos of New York traffic as we crossed some enormous bridge just outside the airport with John still not really sure what side he should be driving on. The indoor swimming pool with rooms arranged around it in the Suffern Holiday Inn where we stayed for the week. The trip to New York on a rest day, including a trip to the top of the World Trade Centre back in the pre-9/11 days when the world was a different place. Managing to lock the keys in the car just minutes before my start, and discovering how many Americans come equipped with all sorts of dodgy tools for breaking and entering. Nearly managing to break 10 minutes/kilometre with a good run over the boulder fields and hills where Hale had managed to break five minutes/kilometre. This too is what being a spectator at the World Championships is all about. Let's hope Denmark provides equal memories.

I've been back to the World Champs areas twice since 1993. The first time was for a 6-Day event in 1996, which I cunningly managed to fit in as part of my honeymoon. (The other part was of course the Canadian Championships the week before.) The second return was for a single race that happened to fit in with a trip to Boston to attend a friend's wedding. We stayed in the Suffern Holiday Inn for old time's sake. I've still got Harriman State Park in my all-time top 10 of places to orienteer. Go if you get a chance.

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