Sunday, July 30, 2006

WOC+2: Long Distance Qualification

After a hot day spectating and competing in the Danish sunshine we can now start to answer those important questions that all spectators need to ask. Nobody has gone for a really outlandish new O-suit this year, and the new British kit is a subtle red, white and blue that seems to look better in photos than it does in real life. The Norwegians are still running round in kit that looks like it has been washed too often, and at least some of the Swedes have thrown away the sleeves of their O-tops along with the rule book that says they should have them. Enough on the fashion report.

Second important question is what is the terrain like. My WOC Tour M40 course of 7.8km took 84 minutes, which sounds pretty awful until you factor in 430m climb (that the Danes cunningly avoid bothering to mention). I could say it's like Cannock Chase or the Chilterns or Bury Walls or Mytchett but the thing it is most like is of course Denmark. Pleasant enough in most places, but with some truly horrid walk (I didn't risk the fight) and relentless short sharp climbs. Vegetation turned out to be better than I'd feared, with a fair amount of quite low bracken, and some stinging nettles hiding to keep you awake when you ran into them by accident.

As for the WOC Long Qualifier it was basically more of the same. All the big names got round safely, with the superstars making it look easy. Simone, Thierry (the only two who qualify as first names only), Nordberg, Lakanen, Novikov and Jukkola all cruised in. The Brits had a standard mix of solid (Jamie Stevenson, Jon Duncan, Alison O'Neill and Rachael Elder), nail-biting (Jenny Whitehead qualifying by two seconds in 15th place) and huge disappointment (Oli Johnson controversially disqualified for mispunching). Performance of the day must go to the Chinese girl Mingyue Zhu who qualified for the final in 15th place: time to start getting worried about the emergence of a new orienteering superpower?

And now those poor elite runners are so tired they need a day off, so that's it until Tuesday for them. Seems a strange timetable, but at least us also-rans are made of sterner stuff and have a race tomorrow. Then there's time to speculate on who might win what on the form we have seen. It still looks to me like things are going to be very close. All 45 men's middle race finalists finished withing 4 minutes of the leader in the qualifier, and the spread today was only 10 minutes. Perhaps that's why we seem to have reverted to results in 10ths of seconds. So roll on the Sprint Qualifier on Tuesday morning, just in time for some people to have their last run at WOC before the opening ceremony and sprint final on Tuesday afternoon.

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