Today the European Orienteering Championships moved into the forest with the Middle Distance Qualifier.
Competitors are split into three equal heats and race to be among the fastest seventeen European athletes, and any non-Europeans ranked better than 17th, to qualify for tomorrows Middle Distance Final. The terrain was typical of this region of southern Switzerland and consisted of steep slopes and deep valleys with few paths to guide your way. On paper, the courses seemed short, 3.0km for the women and 3.5km for the men, but this is without considering the quad-burning amount of climb, 170m and 190m respectively. Only Fabian Hertner (SUI) and Daniel Hubmann (SUI) in men’s heat A and C achieved the predicted winning time of 25 minutes, with the other heats being won in more than 26 minutes. British Orienteering had 10 athletes on the start line and the team hoped to beat the 7 out of 10 qualified to the Sprint Final on Sunday.
Women’s heat A was won by Marika Teini (FIN) in 26.30 and saw Jo Shepherd and Jessica Tullie qualify in 8th and 18th (17th European) respectively.
Pleased with her race, Jo shepherd noted: "I used my compass well and had a good balance between reading the details and simplifying".
Jessica Tullie felt like she executed her plan, orienteered well and read all the details. "I was a bit disappointed to be so close to missing out but I’m excited for tomorrow which will be a new race".
Cat Taylor qualified in 12th place in women’s heat B, which was won by Julia Gross (SUI) in 26.52. Cat said: "11 of the 12 controls were good, but I couldn’t make sense of number 9 and found it really difficult to relocate. I hope to take the positive bits from today and turn them into a better overall performance tomorrow."
Jana Knapova (CZE) won women’s heat C in 27.10, with Charlotte Watson qualifying in 13th position. Charlotte Watson said: "I managed some aspects better than others. I was expecting it to be steep, tough and really important for me to take the time to make sure I got the right direction and keep track of height gain and loss. I was really pleased to qualify and learnt lots for the final tomorrow".
Men’s heat A was won by Fabian Hertner (SUI) in 24.50 and featured Ralph Street and Will Gardner. Ralph, now an experienced competitor at this level, described his run as "good enough" and qualified in 13th position. This was Will Gardner’s first experience of a qualification race on this stage, and he was disappointed with what he described as a "mediocre performance". He continued: "This result doesn’t reflect my orienteering ability, but I am determined to learn from this experience".
First-year senior, Alexander ‘Sasha’ Chepelin, and a late call-up Chris Smithard ran in men’s heat B, which was won by Florian Howald (SUI) in 26.57. In the run-up to today Sasha took advice from teammates, and from coach Oleg, and despite taking the wrong SI-card to the pre-start had a "controlled and enjoyable race." Sasha continued: "I knew I’d be in the final as soon as I punched the last control, it’s a great feeling". Chris, a Sprint specialist, enjoyed the second last control on a path junction and narrowly missed out on qualification. He was satisfied with his performance, and said: "It was about what I’d expect given my preparation and the terrain".
Alasdair McLeod and Alan Cherry ran in Men’s heat C, which was won by Daniel Hubmann (SUI) in 24:53 to complete the Swiss domination of the men’s qualification. Alasdair described his run as "scrappy, with good orienteering in places but also some big mistakes". He was pleasantly surprised to qualify, in 16th place in the heat, and hopes to improve for tomorrow’s final. Alan described his race as "good technically and physically, with two small mistakes making it annoying to miss out on qualification by two seconds".
The 7 athletes who qualified will race in the Middle Distance Final tomorrow. The terrain for tomorrow’s race includes flatter areas with intricate contour detail but could still include some of the steep slopes which defined the race today. The races start at 10:00 local time and can be followed on www.liveorienteering.com