The first day of the 2018 European Orienteering Championships began with both the Sprint Qualification and the Sprint Final.
Nestled amongst the mountains and steep valleys which are synonymous with the Ticino region of Southern Switzerland, the Qualification took place in the town of Bellinzona - famous for its bronze work. With the sun blazing down on the town’s castle and looking out across the valleys, the British girls kicked off the championships racing the 3.5km race. Of the girls, Charlotte Ward and Alice Leake comfortably made it through to the final. Sadly, Kirsten Maxwell fell just short in 25th place whilst Jo Shepherd mis-punched after skipping a control, though would have been close to qualification - Jo will be back racing again though at the Middle Distance on Tuesday.
Then came the men. This was smooth sailing for the majority of the team, with five of the six making it through to the Final. Chris Smithard, Ali McLeod, Ralphy Street, Kris Jones and Peter Hodkinson all went through with no issues. Sadly for Sasha Chepelin - making his senior team debut - an early mistake cost him a spot in the final, placing one place and 7 seconds outside the qualifiers. He clearly has the running legs for later in the week though, so watch out.
Onto the Final and we moved down the valley to the town of Mendrisio. With the temperatures rising further from the morning, and people were bronzing themselves in the sun, it was once again the girls first into the town. In a hilly, technical sprint, governed by wide route choices away from the line, a clean run would be vital. Charlotte Ward was first off, posting positive splits through the course and nearly catching her minute-girl, thinking “I’ll focaccia”. She pushed through to the end and finished in second, holding on for joint 25th by the close of proceedings. Alice Leake was second out into the terrain and again put in a solid performance, placing solidly throughout, and taking 31st by the end. The climbs seemed to take their toll, and she said her legs felt like tagliatelle by the end.
In the fight for medals it was Sweden’s Tove Alexandersson who took the gold, ahead of Swiss Home favourite Judith Wyder (recently returned from the birth of her first child), and Natalia Gemperle of Russia in third.
After the excitement of the women’s competition, and the crowds getting the chance to bronze themselves in the sun, we moved on to the men’s race. Ralphy Street began proceedings for the Brits (27th at the end) but couldn’t match the early pace set by Belgium’s Yannick Michels. Michels would be bettered by Ukraine’s Ruslan Glebov before the final starters began to appear. Ali McLeod was next for the Brits, running fantastically before Kris Jones came into contention at the first radio split for a new leading time. Cheered through the arena by the members of the forest team and the masterminds behind On The Red Line - and despite clipping some walls after not cornetto-ing smoothly at the end - Kris came in to take the new leading time with only four people capable of bettering his time.It was the Swiss duo of Daniel Hubmann and Matthias Kybruz who would provide the greatest challenge, posting the joint leading times to share a pizza the gold medal. Jones Leandersson of Sweden who posed the final threat to Kris’ medal chances would run pasta control at the end and fall away to ninth to provide the GB team with a medal from the first race of the week.
It was just as tight between the final British runners, with Chris Smithard and Peter Hodkinson running each other close with only two seconds separating Ali, Peter, and Chris at the finish (22nd, 23rd, and 24th respectively).
European Orienteering Championships 2018
Cadempino, Ticino, Switzerland
EOC 2018, Sprint Finals Women - Final Results
Sunday, May 6th, 2018
1 ALEXANDERSSON Tove SWE 15:16 0:00
2 WYDER Judith SUI 15:40 +0:24
3 GEMPERLE Natalia RUS 15:49 +0:33
25 WARD Charlotte GBR 17:21 +2:05
31 LEAKE Alice GBR 17:36 +2:20
EOC 2018, Sprint Finals Men - Final Results
Sunday, May 6th, 2018
1 HUBMANN Daniel SUI 14:44 0:00
1 KYBURZ Matthias SUI 14:44 0:00
3 JONES Kristian GBR 14:59 +0:15
22 MCLEOD Alasdair GBR 15:58 +1:14
23 HODKINSON Peter GBR 15:59 +1:15
24 SMITHARD Chris GBR 16:00 +1:16
27 STREET Ralph GBR 16:08 +1:24
Full results from the Women and Men’s Sprint Final can be found here.
Photos: © EOC2018 Rémy Steinegger