WOC 2009 – High drama at the Men’s World Championship Relay – Bankut, Hungary

In the men’s race, the early leading teams of Russia and France were slowly pegged back in the third and final leg by Norway, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Mistakes from the third leg runners and current World Champions Andrey Krahmov (RUS – Sprint) and Thierry Gueorgiou (FRA – Middle) allowed Sweden’s Martin Johansson to take the lead by the 5th control. Watching the radio controls and live GPS tracking, the commentators kept the hushed crowd up to date with the runners’ mistakes and the ever changing lead between Sweden, Norway, France, Czech Republic and Russia.

At the final spectator control, with only a short loop remaining before the finish and completely ‘out of the blue’, Matthias Merz from Switzerland blasted out of the forest almost 2 minutes ahead of the Russian runner followed by Finland and Latvia. Race commentary was astounded! “Where is Norway, Sweden and France? A huge mistake perhaps? I have never ever seen anything like this before.”

But worse than a misktake, the Swedish runner had been badly injured with a large branch embedded in his leg. The French, Czech and Norwegian men abandoned their course (and any hope of a medal) by stopping to assist the Swede who was in great pain and in danger with serious bleeding.  The Norwegian ran back to the event arena to inform officials who dispatched a medical team to the forest where the other men were assisting Martin Johansson.

In an amazing display of sportmanship, Thierry Gueorgiou (FRA), Michal Smola (CZE) and Anders Nordberg (NOR) completed the remainder of their course, jogging up the finish chute together to the tremendous applause of the crowd of spectators, competitors and officials.

Heartbreak and disappointment again for the French (Thierry Gueorgiou was evacuated by helicopter from last year’s WOC relay race after developing breathing difficulties having swallowed a bee), and as well as for Norway, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Yet jubilation for Switzerland becoming the new Men’s World Orienteering Relay Champions!

A special ceremony took place before the medal presentations where the IOF President acknowledged the sacrifice and sportsmanship displayed by the three men who stopped to help the injured runner. The crowd gave a standing ovation, applauding the men for many minutes. Johansson was reported to be recovering well in hospital. (Below L-R Anders Nordberg, Thierry Gueorgiou, Michal Smola).

MenMen’s Results:
1. Switzerland 2:22:48
1.1 Baptiste Rollier 36:37
1.2 Daniel Hubmann 54:18
1.3 Matthias Merz 51.53

2. Russia 2:25:12
2.1 Dmitry Tsvetkov 34:54
2.2 Valentin Novikov 52:24
2.3 Andrey Khramov 57:54

3. Finland 2:25:14
3.1 Topi Anjala 36:03
3.2 Tero Fohr 54:52
3.3 Mats Haldin 54:19

4.Latvia 2:25:18
5.Hungary 2:29:16
6.Poland 2:30:20

25. France 3:01:35
26. Norway 3:01:36
27. Czech Rep. 3:01:36