Friday, August 18, 2006

WOC Results and Statistics

I've commented previously that it turned out to be very hard to find a good source of results for WOC. I'm looking at setting something up to allow a bit of research into how results have changed over the years and produce some statistics. Watch this space. Whilst doing this I have finally found a fantastic site with everything I needed. This is maintained by Bryan Teahan on behalf of the New Zealand Orienteering Federation.

And as a taste of what might be coming, how about this table. It is a full list of all GB runners who have reached the top 10 at the World Championships. Congratulations to Graham Gristwood and Helen Bridle who put themselves on the list in Denmark this year.

PosName% behindRaceYearCountry
1Jamie Stevenson0.00%Sprint2003Switzerland
1Yvette Baker0.00%Short1999Scotland
2Yvette Hague4.30%Long1995Germany
2Yvette Hague1.20%Short1995Germany
3Heather Monro7.00%Sprint2005Japan
3Jamie Stevenson0.50%Middle2006Denmark
3Yvette Hague5.90%Long1993United States
4Steve Hale3.90%Short1993United States
4Yvette Baker1.60%Long1999Scotland
5Jamie Stevenson3.40%Sprint2001Finland
6Helen Bridle7.60%Sprint2006Denmark
7Carol McNeill7.60%Long1979Finland
8Heather Monro4.40%Long1999Scotland
8Jamie Stevenson4.90%Long2004Sweden
8Steven Hale4.70%Short1999Scotland
8Yvette Hague7.30%Long1997Norway
9Graham Gristwood4.50%Sprint2006Denmark
9Heather Monro10.00%Middle2004Sweden
9Sarah Rollins10.10%Sprint2003Switzerland
9Yvette Hague9.10%Short1993United States
10Heather Monro15.50%Middle2003Switzerland

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Great WOC, That's For Sure

Is this the real star of WOC2006? The photo shows Per Forsberg, chief speaker for WOC 2006, and apparently a well-known TV commentator on football and athletics in Sweden. Many of you will already be familiar with his fast, loud and enthusiastic commentary, and will also recognise his many catch phrases, especially "he's too late" and "that's for sure". For those who have never heard him, think Jonathan Pearce with a slight Swedish accent.

Per kept up what seemed like a continuous stream of well-informed commentary throughout the whole of WOC. He was clearly supported by an extensive array of radio control times, TV cameras and real-time tracking information from TracTrac, as well as a team of helpers who were picking out the real action. The spectators got only part of this information, with limited viewing of the tracking information. The big screen was the biggest I've ever seen, and was used well to present a mix of split times, finish times and shots from the forest. From what I can tell it would appear that people watching via the internet probably had more information available, since they could access everything Per had. So in some ways this was the first year when watching from home really seems to have been a valid option.

So what did you get from being there? I guess it's the same question for any sporting event. There was a real sense of atmosphere at every race, with an awful lot noise (especially from Swiss cow bells) and huge numbers of flags, especially Swiss, British, Finnish and Swedish. The race arenas themselves were in fact marginally too small for the numbers that turned up, and the main spectating areas were very hard to move through at the Middle and Relay races because there were simply too many people crammed in. Apparently the Sprint race could have used an athletics stadium for the finish, but the organisers were worried that this was too big and would have looked empty. There were excellent facilities at each race, with huge tents supplying food and drink, plus an ice cream van and beer van each day, and the weather overall was warm and sunny, with just an occasional thunderstorm. And of course you have to be there spectating in order to be able to run in the forest afterwards to find how hard it really was.

There were also several points where the reaction of the crowd really added to the suspense. Remember that an orienteering crowd is extremely knowledgeable about what is going on, and has a pretty good idea of who should be doing what and when. The things that caused the biggest gasps or cheers throughout the week were:
  • Simon Niggli punching the spectator control 6 seconds down on Hanny Alston. That was the point when the crowd worked out there was a real prospect of a huge upset.
  • The tracking display of the long leg on the Men's Long Final, showing runners taking very different route choices. The biggest shock was when Jani Lakanen appeared to stop dead, but we then worked out that this was because we had caught up to real time and he was still doing the leg.
  • David Andersson of Sweden punching the spectator control at the Middle Final and then running the wrong way along the tapes and starting the last loop backwards. I'm surprised that the gasps from the crowd weren't enough to tell him something was wrong.
  • The many mistakes that showed up on the tracking for the Middle Race and Relay, where what we all thought were the world's best orienteers proved that they were human too. Particularly for the Relay it seemed that nearly everyone had a go at making a serious mistake when in or near the lead.
And finally a thought that no-one else seems to have picked up on yet. The Middle Race was originally meant to be include a Micro O section to add spectator interest. Luckily, in my opinion, the WOC organisers failed to get the financial support to do this. What we saw was a fantastic, and spectator-friendly, Middle Race with no need for gimmicks or compromise. Let's stick with proper orienteering for the World Championships, and let the races speak for themselves.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

WOC+8: Who wants to win the relays?

A weird day at the relays, where several of the top teams got into a good position only to throw it away with quite serious mistakes. Norway, Sweden and Switzerland were all guilty, leaving Finland to take the Women's race and Russia to take a surprising gold in the Men's race. The French men were never in contention, and the two British teams both started well but faded away.

The overall TV coverage and commentary was excellent and made following the races very easy and exciting. The tracking system also showed numerous errors at critical points. It was a strange decision to show tracking on aerial photographs rather than the O map until most of the third leg runners had started, since the critical information was all available to the watching runners (gaffling, left and right route choice options).

So that's WOC for another year. Who fancies a week in Kiev next year?

WOC+7: Jamie Stevenson World Champion TM part 2

Well maybe not World Champion again, but a bronze medal in the Middle Race was a pretty impressive achievement. The crowd was crammed onto a steep slope overlooking a spectator control and the run-in. Crowd highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Swede who punched the spectator control and then followed the tapes the wrong way and started running the last loop backwards.

The tracking today showed a lot of quite critical errors, with several medal contenders making mistakes that cost critical seconds and even minutes. Thierry made a large error at number 4 that cost him the race, but several others threw away the gold medal as well. In the women's race it was another close call for Simone but she just held on.

In the afternoon we got a chance to try for ourselves and found quite how intricate the contours were. Strangely the area was very similar to parts of the North Downs (Leith Hill or Holmbury for example) and the Brits should certainly have felt at home.

WOC+6: Picnic time

A day off for the big boys, but day 4 of the WOC Tour for us, and a chance to see the Long Distance area. Pleasant enough but nothing special was how I felt afterwards. Not as physical as the qualifier, and actually quite dull at the end when the contours ran out and the navigation got simple. Looking at the men's course it looks like they suffered the same fate, with a ditch junction near the end being a particularly poor control site.

And then on to the traditional British Team picnic. After various exotic locations this one ended up in a corridor in the Radisson Hotel. The British supporters turned out in force and filled the corridor, much in the way that the various events seem to have event arenas not quite big enough for the crowds turning up.

As you may have guessed, it's proving hard to keep up to date, so expect some short reports to follow, with quite an exciting thing happening very soon...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

WOC+5: Normal service is restored

The long distance final restored normal order, but only just. Pre-race favourites Simon Niggli and Janne Lakanen took gold, but it was close at the top, with several nations having a good day. The GB team had one of those days we now expect: nothing spectacular but pretty reasonable really. Difficult to cheer, but better than it feels at the time, as I seem to have written so often in reviewing WOC history.

From the spectating point of view the event arena was good, with everything in a long thin field in a valley. The run-in was along the bottom, with spectators sitting on the side looking down on the action. There was the token spectator control. This was a wooden platform behind the run-in that, as usual, meant a run down to it and then back out without providing any real orienteering merit other than to show the runners to the crowd. The big screen is really very big, and people are beginning to understand what to show on it. The TV control had enough cameras to build up some tension as people approached and you could see the runner's position gradually slipping down the field. There was a brief appearance of the tracking system, showing a long leg on each course and giving a first idea of how critical some of the route choices appear to have been. However it is still very difficult to integrate this into a real-time commentary, and I still think it is more useful for a highlights programme after the event.

Without seeing the splits it is difficult to be sure, but it seems there were some fairly large packs forming again. Lakanen certainly ran a large portion of the race with Gonon of France, dragging him into the top 10 (or was it the other way round?). Jamie Stevenson apparently ran the whole course on his own, which must have cost him time. Just one of those things if you accept a 2 minute start interval.

So two races gone, two to go. Another rest day for the poor elites whilst we spectators get to see what the area was really like.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

WOC+4: Queen of the South

So now we know Simone can be beaten, and by a junior at that. Hanny Alston from Australia took gold in the sprint final at the end of a hectic day for the elites, the also-rans and I'm afraid to say the event officials.

Didn't have time to fit in a visit to spectate at the Qualifier, but the news was good for GB with everybody through. My secret weapon in the O-Manager game, Troy de Haas of Australia, got disqualified and then reinstated after they decided two controls were less than 30m apart. An Irish runner got re-instated because a car was parked in front of a control. The perils of sprint race planning and controlling. WOC Tour race in the morning was pleasant but nothing special. Heather Monro came out of World Championships retirement to win W21E.

Car parking for the Opening Ceremony was chaos. Glad I don't live in one of the local streets. Ten minute walk through light rain to get to the arena, but the weather then brightened up nicely until everything was over. The opening ceremony was slightly strange and one of the worst examples of its kind. It never really got going or seemed to have any point. The Crown Prince of Denmark did a short speech in which he attempted, and managed, simultaneously to sound like Prince Charles and Tony Blair. The finish area itself was quite impressive with massive grandstands for the spectators, even though the sight lines weren't particularly great. Finish out of sight to the left, spectator control out of sight behind the stage. The Swiss won the "bring a flag" competition, and it looked like Norway had forgotten there was an event on. Perhaps they knew what was to come, with Norway having a terrible set of results.

The men's race was looking good for GB all the way. BJ came in early and in the lead, GG had an absolute stormer and was in the lead at the spectator control. He lost a few seconds in the last loop, and reckoned his ninth place could have been a top six. Matt Speake got disqualified for crossing an uncrossable fence. So did Troy de Haas; the first person ever to be disqualified in a World Champs Qualifier and Final on the same day? The British women went even better than the men, with Helen Bridle finishing sixth, Pippa Whitehouse 12th and Sarah Rollins 16th. But is was the last few moments that will be remembered. Hanny Alston finished to take the lead, having been towed round the last loop by Helen. Just after that Simone punched the spectator control and we knew she was six second down on the lead. Could she do it? Not this time. Perhaps she'll have to settle for only three golds this year. Or is someone else out there going to take another one away?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

WOC+3: WOC Tour Day 2

Another day, another event to run. This time the WOC Tour was just south of Arhus in the forest along the coast. This was predominantly beech with some interesting contour detail at 2.5m, not too much unpleasant vegetation but a very dense path network. It was certainly a bit easier to run than the previous day, and speeds increased all round.

Then it was another hard day sightseeing (bog man plus Viking and Roman remains in the Moesgard museum, which just happened to be the car park for the event) followed by a quick trip to the beach (water temperature 21C if you believe the sign by the life guard's hut).

And now the real event starts. Looks like we won't have time to make it to the qualifier in the morning, so it's WOC Tour Day 3 first (same place as yesterday) followed by the Opening Ceremony followed by the first final. Optimistic British spectator view says six through to the final, top 10 places for Sarah Rollins and BJ. Super-optimistic British spectator view puts GG in the top 10 as well, and gives BJ a medal. Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia and even countries like Italy and Australia will also think they've got a chance of a medal.