The Middle Distance qualification opened the European Championships today. In Hökberg, the six heats ran up this morning, involving 126 male and 88 female athletes. In a competition where Spain is an illustrious absent, Portugal didn't have a good start and Miguel Silva, with the 30th position in the C-Heat, turned out to be our best athlete.
Running in the A-Heat, Manuel Horta and Tiago Leal couldn't get a better result than the 38th and 40th position, respectively, among 42 competitors. Manuel Horta finished with a time of 32:44, while Tiago Leal spent over 2:20 more than his teammate. With the time of 26:05, Valentin Novikov (Russia) was the winner of this heat, starting in the best way the defence of his European title at Middle Distance.
To the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, Tiago Leal stated: “After the last month, when I had injuries, my physical shape was not the most appropriate and, facing a hard race, the result was not properly the ideal. At the Sprint race, that I expect less hard physically, I hope to do a better outcome.” Manuel Horta also left us his impressions: “It was in the Middle Distance that I had placed the highest expectations, but things didn't run as desired, probably because I'd been sick the previous week. I started rather quickly and soon began to fail for the first two points. In the following controls I started to develop the rhythm but I felt some difficulty in breathing, which prevented me from doing the rest of the race at a good pace. I hope to recover to be in better shape for the Sprint race.”
“Even with a clean race, I would be more than a minute away from the final”
Paulo Franco and Tiago Aires participated in the second round of qualifying, having achieved slightly better results than the previous competitors. In a race dominated by a superior Olav Lundanes (Norway), Tiago Aires has finish in the 32nd position, with a time of 31:17. Among 42 participants, Paulo Franco was ranked the 37th, with a record of 34:34.
“I'm very disappointed with my performance because I have lost just two minutes for the first control, in an area that should be simple. At the rest of my race, I didn't commit any more errors.” This is how Tiago Aires, the best Portuguese runner of the present moment, saw his performance. He adds: “It's hard to make such a basic mistake early on the race. Now, for tomorrow's Long Distance qualifying, I have to think about the 17 points that went well, and hopefully get a better performance. But I know that, even with a clean race, I would be more than a minute away from the final.” Paulo Franco also gave us his impressions: “Looking at the terrain and the time for the first athlete, I thought the race would be fairly quick. My strategy was to get safe and try to increase the pace during the race. I lost about 30 seconds to the first control, but I got to control the navigation in the next three points. In total, I missed about four or five minutes in errors and hesitations.” He concludes: “Apart from errors in navigation and physical handicap, I felt that the difference is in the ability of progression in this type of terrain. It is a matter that we have to work hard and gain more experience on.”
“Lack of experience to run on this terrains”
Finally, Miguel Reis e Silva ran the third and final heat, achieving the best result among the Portuguese team. His 30th place, with a time of 30:32, left him 2:52 away from the final A, 4:53 away from the World Champion of Middle Distance, Thierry Gueorgiou (France) and 5:08 away from Johan Runesson (Sweden), the surprising winner of this qualifying heat.
In the end, Miguel Reis e Silva declares: “After a week of training in fantastic terrains, where I regained the taste for Orienteering, it's time to compete. Facing a map where you could easily lose some time, my goal was to make a clean race. I managed to miss only about 30 seconds to point 5. Having managed to master the navigation, the rest of the lost time was clearly the result of a lack of experience to run on this terrains of more difficult progression.”
Sweden and Norway at full strength
In the women category, Minna Kauppi (Finland) won the A-Heat with an enormous advantage, beating the Swiss Ines Brodmann by the difference of 1:59. In B-Heat, Anne-Margrethe Hausken Nordberg (Norway) beat the European Middle Distance champion, the Swiss Simone Niggli, by a margin of 23 seconds. Finally, in the third qualifying heat, the winner was the Swedish Helena Jansson, 45 seconds ahead of his teammate Tove Alexandersson.
Due to the technical problems with time-keeping, it was decided by the Competition Director Mark Baljeu to take 20 runners from A-Heat to the Final (instead of usual 17) to maintain fairness of the competition. So, at Skattungbyn Arena, next Thursday, 51 athletes will dispute the European title in the male elite and 54 in the female elite. With six athletes each, Sweden and Norway are the more numerous formations in the men's final, while Finland, Sweden and Norway keep their female teams intact for the final.
Everything to follow in http://www.eoc2012.se/
[Photo: Anders Öberg]