Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Missing Years

Mike Edwards spectating from the Commentary Box at WOC 2015
This blog started out to cover WOC 2006 in Denmark, and early posts covered WOC history to that date. Team Errington made it to the Ukraine for WOC 2007, but I've written nothing since the World Championships in the Czech Republic back in 2008, where Jamie, Jon and GG took an unexpected gold medal in the relay after Thierry's unfortunate meeting with a bee meant that he missed out on his first gold relay medal. So before things get started in Estonia on Friday there is just time for a quick look back at what the GB WOC supporters have had to get excited about over the past nine years.

WOC 2009: Miskolc, Hungary

GG, Scott Fraser and Pippa Whitehouse made the top 20 in a rather strange sprint race that was mostly in forest. GG was 9th in the Men's Long. But the talking point of the year was the Men's Relay. Swedish runner Martin Johansson was seriously injured after getting a stick impaled in his leg whilst in the lead on the last leg. France, Norway and the Czech Republic all stopped to help him, and Thierry had found a new way of not winning a WOC relay gold.

WOC 2010: Trondheim, Norway

GB performance of the week was Scott Fraser taking sixth in the Long: still our best male performance, with only Jamie Stevenson and GG having also made the top ten. Pippa Archer, Sarah Rollins and Helen Bridle all made the top 20 in the Women's Sprint. The men took fourth in the relay after Thierry had found yet another new way of not winning a WOC relay gold. This time he was in the lead half way round the last leg when he ran straight past the control before the spectator run-through. The crowd soon told him of his mistake, but running back to get the control left France in sixth.

WOC 2011: Savoie Grand Revard, France

The French found some crazily complex terrain and then set Thierry on it. He won the Middle race by over two minutes, the Long race by over four minutes and finally picked up a Relay gold as well.

British highlight of the week was the Men's Sprint, with GG an agonising fourth, Scott Fraser ninth and Murray Strain 12th.

WOC 2012: Lausanne, Switzerland

Switzerland is where Jamie Stevenson took gold in the Sprint at WOC 2003. It was a case of oh so near in 2012, as Scott Fraser ended up fourth, behind three Swiss men all called Matthias. Claire Ward was seventh and Tessa Hill 12th in the Women's Sprint.

Surprise of the week was probably Switzerland failing to take a medal in the Men's Relay (that's what you get if you only pick two people called Matthias), with victory going to the Czech Republic. Individual performance of the week definitely went to Edgars Bertuks who won Latvia's first WOC medals with gold in the Middle race and bronze in the Long race.

WOC 2013: Vuokatti, Finland

Finally the near misses ended, GB had another WOC medal to celebrate, and Scott Fraser came home with a silver from the Sprint. Murray Strain was ninth and Kris Jones 16th, and Tessa Strain showed the Women were world-class as well taking fifth, with Sarah Rollins in 20th. Cat Taylor snuck into the top ten in the Women's long.

For Sarah Rollins it was her 11th and final WOC; a new GB record at the time but now having been overtaken by GG who will be at his 13th WOC in Estonia. And this was also Simone Niggli's 11th and final WOC. She only managed the three gold medals this time, but that made it a career total of 23 gold, two silver and six bronze.

WOC 2014: Trentino-Veneto, Italy

The Italians somehow managed to hold the Sprint races in Venice. Murray Strain was 13th and Kris Jones was 18th in the Men's Sprint, and Tessa Hill was 12th in the Women's Sprint. Elsewhere there was a better than normal set of top-20 results for Hector Haines (12th in Men's Middle), GG (20th in Men's Long), Claire Ward (12th in Women's Middle) and Cat Taylor (19th in Women's Long).

2014 also saw the first appearance of the Mixed Sprint Relay, with teams of two men and two women. If you have been paying attention you will realise this would seem to be playing to GB's strengths. Cat Taylor, Kris Jones, Murray Strain and Tessa Hill came home in sixth place. On a personal note, it was good to see the Russians taking a bronze medal. I first met Gleb Tikhonov (or rather his parents)  on a boat on a canal outside Moscow in 1994 when he was still in a pushchair.

WOC 2015: Inverness, Great Britain

Back on home terrain for a third time, including a third trip to Darnaway, this time for the Middle and Relay races. The British team put in a very strong set of results and did pretty much everything but win a medal. There were top 20 results in every race, with the highlights being fourth in the Men's Relay, where Ralph Street couldn't quite hold on for a medal on the last leg, and Cat Taylor's fifth in the Women's Middle (with Jess Tullie in 17th) and 6th in the Women's Long. Yet again the Men's Sprint produced three top-20 places (Kris Jones eighth, Scott Fraser 13th and Murray Strain 18th) and Charlotte Ward was 17th in the Women's Sprint. And Hector Haines and GG did the double in the Men's Middle (10th and 20th) and Men's Long (17th and 18th ).

WOC 2016: Strömstad-Tanum, Sweden

I was really struggling to remember much about this, but as ever Jan Kocbach on World of O came to the rescue. Kris Jones led the way for GB with fourth in the Men's Sprint, with Ralph Street in 17th. The Mixed Sprint Relay team got it together and ended up fourth as well, and so did the Men's Relay team. Three fourths is difficult to celebrate, and other top 20 finishes were fewer than recent years, with  Hector Haines 19th on the Men's Long and GG 19th on the Men's Middle. And a new country took a first medal, when Anastasia Denisova from Belarus took third place in the Women's Sprint.

So that's the past eight years dealt with. Next it will be time to look forward to what might happen this year.

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