The 2008 World Orienteering Championships kicked off this morning with the sprint qualification in the Moravian town of Prostejov. The competition for a top fifteen position in each of the three heats is always tough at WOC, with seconds deciding between competitor and spectator for the final this evening.
Kathryn Ewels was the first Australian to race through the town streets and parkland this morning, and posted what appeared to be a good time. It was enough for 12th place in her heat, 49 seconds behind the Dane Signe Soes. “I had a pretty good run, steady and didn’t make any mistakes”, said Ewels, “most of the race we were just looking for controls on thickets and it was just a matter of picking the right one”. Next off was WOC debutant Jasmine Neve, who had a solid race but had a nervous wait until the last runner in her heat had finished to know she’d come 15th. Neve was 1.35 behind Helena Jansson of Sweden. Grace Elson continued her consistent summer of orienteering and cruised into 12th place, 45 seconds behind local star Dana Brožková.
In the men’s race it is always tough to qualify, this year the cut-off was at 45, 55 and 43 seconds in each heat. WOC debutant Simon Uppill had an early start and, like Neve, had a long and nervous wait to find out what he’d be doing at 6pm this evening. Amazingly, Uppill dead-heated with Kiwi Chris Forne and Lithuanian Vilius Aleliunas in 14th place, 45 seconds behind German Alex Lubina (a known star on the athletics track). Julian Dent, Australia’s number one man, struggled physically today. He came down with a bout of food poisoning last night and, despite improving slightly in the morning, was lacking his usual energy. He scraped into the final in 15th place, 55 seconds behind heat winner Mattias Mueller from Switzerland. Kerrin Rattray was the third man representing Australia this morning and despite having a good race, Rattray was unfortunately not quick enough to make it through to the final.
Most of the big names qualified to the final, although 2007 sprint medallists Thierry Gueorgiou (FRA) and Martin Johansson (SWE) gave themselves a bit of a fright. Sergey Detkov (RUS), Wojciech Dwojak (POL) and Tuomas Tervo (FIN) are probably the most significant names that you won’t see on the start list for the final.
Read more on the teams Attackpoint Trog and follow the action live on the Official WOC website.
The sprint final starts tonight in Olomouc at 16:45 for the women and 18:00 for the men local time (00:45 and 02:00 AEST).