Hot and humid conditions met the athletes for the first race of the 2018 World University Championships. The terrain was not as the athletes expected. Initially most had presumed artificial barriers would be used to make the terrain a real technical challenge. Instead, they were met with a combination of flat, urban sections, interspersed with featureless forest. Though there were some routechoices, these were minimal and primarily located at the beginning and end of the courses, with a long ungaffled section in the middle of each course, meaning that any navigation mistake would be amplified. With temperatures climbing to 32 degrees, the athletes would have to keep calm and not push too soon and risk blowing early in the race; a cool temperament would be essential if a team slipped behind the leaders.
Cecile Anderson began proceedings for GBR, with a long first leg putting everyone under-pressure and Hungary and France making an early split in the bunch. Although she had a couple of the longer gaffles initially, Cecile stabilised her run behind what had become a breakaway trio of France, Hungary and Switzerland. Handing over in 7th place, she sent Jonathan Crickmore out into the terrain just 30 seconds behind the leaders.
On leg 2, the leading trio began to extend their advantage, with Hungary initially breaking away, before France took the lead heading into the changeover. Behind Jonny was having a tough day, holding place in the group but making no inroads into the leaders, with the gap drifting out to 1:16 by the changeover.
On Leg 3, it was time for GBR to start making a comeback. Alexander Chepelin blitzed through the first splits, gaining time incessantly on Hungary, Poland and Spain in 4th, 5th and 6th. Picking clean routechoices when the other runners were focusing on the running pace, by the changeover Sasha had pulled the team up to 6th, just 1 second behind Hungary, but 50 seconds down on a medal position.
This left it up to Megan Carter-Davies to try to anchor the team to a second medal in successive championships for Great Britain. Megan started phenomenally quickly, and it was GBR and Poland moving the quickest of anyone in the terrain. By a third of the way through, Megan had already caught Norway, who had begun the leg in 3rd, and had dropped Hungary, but with Poland moving just as quick, it would be tough to get a medal. On the commentary it was announced that the French last leg was beginning to suffer at the spectator run-through, offering a small glimmer of hope to Megan (who had already clawed back 40 seconds). A late mistake by both France and Poland opened the door, but sadly it was too much of a gap to close. It was, however, a fantastic run to bring the British team back into 4th place.
Full results can be found here.
Quotes from the Team:
Sasha Chepelin – My race was good. I felt a bit overheated at the start and wished I’d kept a bit cooler instead of warming up for so long. Luckily for me (but possibly not so for the rest of the team) it was more about flat out running today. A bit more technical orienteering would have been better for us, plus slightly cooler weather.
The Middle Distance:
After this solid start for the team, the athletes will move to the forest tomorrow for the Middle distance. Though vague the forest is apparently rough underfoot. There will be a high focus on good compass direction and again a high physical capacity will be needed to take a medal. First starts are from 08:00 UK time with medlas expected to be decided around 12:00.
Two years ago, it was Lucy Butt who provided the top performance for Britain in the Women’s race, placing 19th, with William Gardner being the best of the Brits in the Men’s race, placing 13th. Let’s hope for even better from the runners tomorrow – good luck to all.
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 come Cecile 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: Cecile 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 - Cecile Andersen, Chloe Potter, Katie Reynolds
Men - Alexander Chepelin, Jonathan Crickmore, Matthew Elkington, Nathan Lawson.
Women - Cecile 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.
The JWOC Relays in Tazlar today were the final races of the JWOC 2018 programme and Team GB bounced back in style from their disappointments in the middle, as the Women's 1st team recorded the best result by a female British trio in the discipline and the Men's 1st team put down the third best result in a JWOC relay and ended up only ten seconds away from what would have been a historic podium double. The team had gone into the races knowing that they had the physical speed and the technical preparation to cope with the challenges of the area and it was all about putting together three complete performances in a row.
In the Women's race, Fiona Bunn headed out first and, although she dropped some time on the first gaffle, she kept her composure and began to claw the front runners back-in. Having been 1:24 down at the second radio control, she managed to gain back 30 seconds over the next 3k and sent out Grace Molloy in joint 8th place. Over the next 4k, Grace ran a superb race and reduced the deficit to only 38 seconds and climbed to 5th as she headed through the arena and onto the final loop. A small wobble saw her lose around a minute, but the damage was minimal, as she handed over to Chloe Potter in 6th and only 40 seconds away from a medal. Chloe then ran the best race she'd ever had in a GB vest, as she climbed to 3rd at the half way point and even flirted with the lead as she approached the spectator control. Some small misses meant the chasing pack reeled her in, but a turn of speed into the finish straight saw her hold off both Sweden and Switzerland to claim 4th place and put the women's team onto the podium. Afterwards, Chloe said "I can't believe it - I beat Simona Aebersold, a JWOC multi-gold medalist. I'm absolutely buzzing!". The 2nd team, made up of Emma Wilson, Laura King and Niamh Hunter, performed admirably as well, ending as the 5th best placed 2nd team, with both Laura and Niamh pulling up places throughout their runs, to end in 20th position in the overall standings.
Meanwhile, the Men's race was also developing into an exciting affair. Experienced first leg runner, Alex Carcas , started well, but then had a difficult middle spell, with a number of small misses and left Aidan Rigby with a gap of around 2 minutes to make up to the main pack. Aidan then ran a controlled leg, with only a few minor mistakes and pulled up 9 places, to leave Matthew Fellbaum in 13th and around 2 minutes back from the podium. Although extremely tired from his week's exertions, Matthew managed to pull yet another consistent run out of the bag and gradually moved through the field. By the arena passage, he'd reeled in the pack of Finland, France, Poland and Switzerland and was within touching distance of the podium. However, it was not to be, as the three runners in front just managed to hold him off as he headed into the finish straight, but it was a tremendous effort, in the end, to get that close and it was the Men's team's best result since Denmark in 1995. The Men's 2nd team had also begun well, with Eddie Narbett having the run of the day on the first leg, coming back in 4th and only 19 seconds off the lead. Alastair Thomas and Daniel Spencer, tired from their exertions at both EYOC and JWOC, ran as well as they could, but it was just one race too far for their young legs and they ended up in 27th position overall and 10th placed 2nd team.
The team now head back home tomorrow with some great memories of what has been an eventful week, with outstanding performances in the relay and the sprint, and we wish them luck with the rest of the season, as many in the team now begin their preparations for JEC in the autumn.