This week sees the 21st World University Orienteering Championships take place in Kuortane, Finland. Located inland to the North-West Finnish coastal town of Vaasa, Kuortane features relatively flat terrain, based around subtle contour details, open rock and point features such as knolls and boulders. This fast, open terrain has little to impede the competitors and will require good focus and compass direction, alongside a high physical capacity, to deliver the medals. For the sprints, a combination of forest and urban terrain looks likely to be used, with the possibility of artificial barriers making what at first glance seems to be simple terrain built around running speed into a technical challenge to rival any international.
The GB team are defending champions in the Sprint and Sprint relay and will look to retain both titles with a team that has seen a vast number of chances from the team which helped dominate the championships in Miskolc, Hungary, two years ago. There are four members of the team who do remain, with Jonathan Crickmore, Alexander (Sasha) Chepelin, Megan Carter-Davies and Katie Reynolds all representing their respective universities once again on the international stage.
The week itself begins at 14:00 GMT with the Mixed Sprint Relay on Tuesday 17th, and the GB team will look to get off to a winning start. In 2016 the GB team dominated the sprint disciplines, with an emphatic victory in the Sprint Relay the highlight of the week. The team has seen significant changes since then. Gone are Charlotte Ward, Peter Hodkinson and Kris Jones (1st, 2nd and 3rd legs respectively), and in comes Cecilie Anderson, Jonathan Crickmore and Sasha Chepelin (Legs 1,2 and 3) joining returning anchor leg runner Megan Carter-Davies.
Two years ago, the GB team held firm in the top-3 positions with Charlotte and Peter for the first two legs, before Kris Jones broke away on leg 3, with Megan holding the lead through to the finish. There will likely be an unusual combination between forest and urban, with old maps showing large forested sections next to the town, and with the urban sections looking relatively simple, which will increase the likelihood of artificial barriers being used to increase the technical challenge. With a risk of thunderstorms on this first day, things could get chaotic out in the terrain. Be prepared to see some nations who you would not class as traditionally strong sprint nations or those who build their medal chances around the forest, holding strong positions long into the race.
After this fast and furious start, the individual races will get underway. First up will be the Middle Distance, before the runners return to the urban terrain for the Sprint on Thursday 19th, before heading back to the forest again for the Long distance, with the Relay completing the week on Saturday 21st (at which there will be two teams representing each country, with the first team over the line the only one to count officially).
Although there are six men and women in the team, only four are permitted to race in each discipline, the full team is as follows:
Sprint Relay: Cecilie Andersen, Jonathan Crickmore, Sasha Chepelin, Megan Carter-Davies.
Women - Megan Carter-Davies, Sarah Jones, Chloe Potter, Fay Walsh
Men - Alexander Chepelin, Nathan Lawson, Ben Mitchell, Joe Woodley.
Women - Cecilie Andersen, Chloe Potter, Katie Reynolds
Men - Alexander Chepelin, Jonathan Crickmore, Matthew Elkington, Nathan Lawson.
Women - Cecilie Andersen, Megan Carter-Davies, Sarah Jones, Fay Walsh
Men - Jonathan Crickmore, Matthew Elkington, Ben Mitchell, Joe Woodley.
Relay: Teams to be confirmed.
All information and free online results and GPS tracking can be found here.