The Long Distance final was a great result for both Australian women. For Hanny Allston it was about creating history and for Jo Allison it was about getting to the start and finishing; more below.
Hanny Allston only become serious about orienteering a few years ago when she decided to give away swimming because of shoulder problems. She won her first National League race in March 2003 and her first international medal, a bronze at the World Junior Championships in Switzerland in July. She set up today’s good result through a great solo run in the qualifying heats on Monday. Today’s race was run in warm to hot humid conditions, but it was the terrain and vegetation that tested most people. The 8,800 metre course had 21 controls and 630 metres of climb.
Hanny had a plan and she stuck to it. It was to concentrate on navigating as well as she could and if and when one of the faster later starters caught her, to stay focused on her own navigation. She was not caught until well into the race, by Finland’s Paula Haapakoski and they travelled together for a while until they caught Russia’s Tatiana Ryabkina who started two minutes before Hanny. About the same time another Finn Heli Jukkola and Simone Niggli joined what was now a pack.
Leaving the 13th control Hanny made a brave decision, not to go on the same route as Simone who went low, but to stay high with the Finns. As a consequence they reached control 14 ahead of Simone and stayed ahead of her through to about the 17th control. Simone and one other reached the second last control (where I was sitting taking photographs) about two minutes ahead of Hanny and the pack, which now included Romania’s Zsuzsa Fey. The climb out was very steep and the run home arduous. Hanny managed to beat Haapakoski and Ryabkina to the finish line. Her result was a just result for her efforts.
Australian team member David Brickhill-Jones added to Hanny’s occasion on the podium by presenting her with a large garland of hydrangea.
The indomitable Simone Niggli who is on track to win four gold medals again at a World Championships won the race. Jo Allison’s preparation was severely disrupted by being stung on the sole of her foot by wasp that flew into her motel room. Her foot ballooned in size and she spent most of the night treating her foot to ensure she could get to the start line. Although she said that she suffered no pain throughout the race, the emotional trauma, etc obviously had an adverse impact on her and she did well to finish 28th, her third top 30 in a long distance final and her sixth in WOC finals.
Russia’s Andrey Khramov won the men’s race by over two minutes from Switzerland’s Marc Lauenstein and Norway’s Holger Holt Johnansen (who was second in the 2000 long listance World Cup race at Big Badja). Italy’s Michele Tavernaro finished sixth in what might be his nation’s first podium result. The big Frenchman, Thierry Gueorgiou had to settle for seventh.
For the Australian men the race was not much short of a disaster. Dave Shepherd has been troubled by illness and injury for most of the year, and the demands of two gruelling races on consecutive days took their toll on him and he pulled out during the race. In most other races he would have been fine, but the Japanese terrain is very unforgiving.
Troy de Haas got away to a great start and everything looked fine until he accidently missed a couple of controls mid-course. When he realised his error he decided that it was not worth going to get them and to fight for a place in the 30s, so he opted out, to save himself for the all-important Relays on Sunday. Grant Bluett finished the course and was strong throughout, but he missed punching control 22, a common drinks control on a road crossing. A legal time would have put him about 26th position.
With the individual finals now completed (notably with no Swedes on the podium today), the focus will now be on the Relays. Australia’s women’s team (Jo Allison, Hanny Allston, Tracy Bluett) will go into the race as a medal prospect, but the Swiss team will be hard to beat. The men’s results are hard to predict. Anyone of about 8 nations could win. Great Britain is likely to be without Jamie Stevenson who has a knee injury. Australia’s team (Grant Bluett, David Brickhill-Jones, Troy de Haas) has the potential to be amongst the thick of things as the race draws to a close and much will depend mood of team members on the day. I have every confidence that history could be repeated and that both teams could be on the podium. Here’s hoping.
|1.||Andrey Khramov (Russia)||1:37:22|
|2.||Marc Lauenstein (Switzerland)||1:39:30|
|3.||Holger Hott Johansen (Norway)||1:42:09|
|28.||Chris Forne (New Zealand)||1:56:08|
|Troy de Haas (Australia)||DISQ|
|David Shepherd (Australia)||DISQ|
|Grant Bluett (Australia)||DISQ|
|1.||Simone Niggli (Switzerland)||1:13:23|
|2.||Heli Jukkola (Finland)||1:15:35|
|3.||Vroni König Salmi (Switzerland)||1:17:49|
|6.||Hanny Allston (Australia)||1:23:31|
|21.||Rachael Smith (New Zealand)||1:36:02|
|28.||Jo Allison (Australia)||1:40:30|
|37.||Rebecca Smith (New Zealand)||1:52:15|