Monday, 28 July 2008

High drama at the WOC Relay

The Relays provided a gripping end to the World Orienteering Championships. The Women's race started first and heading into the final leg, Switzerland held a clear lead of over two minutes thanks to a great run by Silver Medallist in the Middle Distance Vroni Koenig-Salmi. Lea Mueller (SUI) was being chased down by a pack consisting of Helena Jansson (SWE), Tatiana Ryabkina (RUS) and all three gold medallists from earlier in the week: Anne Margrethe Hausken (NOR), Minna Kauppi (FIN) and Dana Brozkova (CZE). Minna it was who made the difference, stepping up a gear in the long leg with the big climb. She brought home the gold for Finland running almost three minutes faster than the next best time on her leg. Russia were second and Sweden third.

Niamh O'Boyle started strongly for Ireland coming in ahead of Denmark, Portugal and Canada to hand over to Ciara Largey in 23rd. Ciara ran creditably but was passed by the stronger Danish team. Ailbhe Creedon anchored the team with a steady run keeping the team in 24th place, behind Canada but now ahead of the Japanese. Good work, girls!

Worth noting is the incredible 7th place of the Chinese women's team. They have extremely fast runners and the entire team has been training intensively in Czech terrain over the past two months and it paid off.

The Men's race was almost unreal. François Gonon (FRA) came back in the lead after the first leg to tag Damien Renard. The pecking order was only really established after the second leg though. Jon Duncan (GBR) taking over from Graham Gristwood came back with a 24 second lead over the French setting up a titanic battle between Jamie Stevenson and Thierry Gueorgiou. Behind them, Valentin Novikov (RUS) and Daniel Hubmann (SUI) were hot on their heels. Sixteen minutes in, Gueorgiou caught Stevenson and managed to get a clear lead. France now seemed unbeatable and about to claim their first Gold in relay. But... "les dieux en avaient décidé autrement", as the French put it. On the way to the 7th control Thierry swallowed a bee which stung him on the inside of the throat. He struggled on for a while but had to bail out. On reaching the finish area he collapsed, barely able to breathe. A helicopter duly arrived to take him to hospital where the word was that he was on the way to recovery.
This freakish accident left the way open for Jamie Stevenson to claim a historic Gold for the British team, despite Novikov's fastest time on the third leg which gave Russia silver. Switzerland took third, Czech Rep 4th and Latvia 5th, relegating the Nordic nations of Finland, Norway and Sweden to 6th, 7th and 8th respectively.

Andrew Quin ran first leg for the Irish. A mistake on the 8th control and some problems with dehydration hurt his race. Patrick Higgins ran better, passing Turkey, but not enough to bring us within striking distance of the teams further ahead. I anchored, and had an uneventful race, leaving us in 32nd place ahead of South Africa with three teams disqualified. For the men's team it was a disappointing end to the week as we are capable of beating several of the teams ahead of us if we run to our potential.

Some photos of the Irish team and result summaries are available at
Full results including split times at:
More photos are to be found at

Andrew and Patrick went on to Sweden with Andrew running O-ringen and Patrick the World Cup races. Patrick, Ciara and Niamh will be running the World Student Championships in Estonia and I'm going to the 6 days in France. We are all looking forward to a solid year of training and moving up the rankings.

Bring on Hungary 2009!

Neil Dobbs

No comments: