Monday, August 27, 2012

WMTBOC 2012: An event to remember

End of the 2012 World MTB Orienteering Championships. In a time of balance, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog recalls the highlights of the event and chooses those that were, in its point of view, the great moments of the event.

The 2012 World MTB Orienteering Championships came to the end. Distributed by the categories of Elite, Juniors and Veterans, the event was attended by 450 athletes from 32 countries, with this particular note to China Taipei, Turkey and Romania, that for the first time took their seats in the largest international MTB Orienteering event.

Hosted in Veszprém, Hungary, the World Championships saw the program distributed over six days, with the finals of Sprint, Middle Distance, Long Distance and Relay to make up the highlights of the event. Altogether, they were assigned 33 individual world titles and eight world relay titles, with the Czech Republic taking the biggest number of medals, no less than eleven, but with the peculiarity that eight of them were reached in the Veterans category. Finland with seven medals - four of them in the Elite category and two in the Junior category - Austria and Denmark with four world titles each, were the teams that followed in the list of medals of the Championships.

The finals, one by one

The Finals of Sprint and Middle Distance completed the first half of the program. In the Sprint race, there was an intense duel between the Austrian Tobias Breitschädel and the Czech Marek Pospisek. Triumph of the Austrian by two seconds only, in what is, until now, the tightest victory in a final of Sprint at the World Championships. In the female class, the Swiss Christine Schaffner won her first gold medal in this discipline, beating Emily Benham (Great-Britain) by the narrow margin of 22 seconds. Regarding the Middle Distance, it brought us a Samuli Saarela (Finland) at his best, showing why he is the leader of the World Ranking, with a great win against his biggest rival, the Russian Anton Foliforov. Within the ladies, the Swiss Ursina Jäggi managed, perhaps, the biggest surprise of the Championships, beating all the rivalry and offering to Switzerland its first female world title at Middle Distance.

The Relay race opened the second half of the competitive program, with a "double" of Finland. Much easier in the case of the ladies, regarding the Swiss team, which had won the title last year; tighter in the case of men, with Jussi Laurila withstanding the strong pressure from the Russian Anton Foliforov and offering to his country the fourth win in ten editions of the competition. Considered the "race queen" of the Championships, the final of Long Distance ended the program in the best way, with the Russian Ruslan Gritsan to relish the gold, four years after his last world title achieved in Ostróda. Gritsan, who imposed to the Finn Juho Saarinen by the difference of 16 seconds, in what is also the narrowest margin in the history of Long Distance's finals. As for the female sector, Susanna Laurila tasted again the gold, this time individually, imposing to the Russian Ksenia Chernikh by an advantage of 23 seconds.

Finland, the major triumphant

Looking at the scoreboard in the World Elite, it becomes difficult to choose the biggest name of the Championships. The six individual titles were to six different athletes, namely the Austrian Tobias Breitschädel, the Swiss Ursina Jaggi and the Finnish Susanna Laurila, bringing a note of tremendous freshness and the guarantee to be well assured the future of the sport in their respective countries. The Swiss Christine Schaffner, the Finn Samuli Saarela and the Russian Ruslan Gritsan are the other world champions in 2012, in what constitutes the unambiguous confirmation of its enormous capabilities and qualities, evident in the 17 world titles boasted by all three together.

Already in the collective chapter, the Finland is the big winner. To the titles of Samuli Saarela and Susanna Laurila, join the Relay triumphs in men and women, causing that Finland reached, at its account, half of the world titles in the Elite program. It follows Switzerland, thanks to the above mentioned winnings of Christine Schaffner and Ursina Jaggi.

Some better than the others

Analyzing the benefits of each of the countries here, becomes impossible not to mention Portugal. The Portuguese managed to establish its best results ever in the Middle Distance (Davide Machado at 11th place) and in the Relay (8th position), equaling still, through Davide Machado, the best place ever in the Long Distance (5th place). In the case of Austria, it wasn't only the gold medal of Tobias Breitschädel in the final of Sprint. Also the 3rd place in the Men's Relay was a highlight of the Austrian team. A word also for the Great-Britain and, in particular, to Emily Benham, a young lady with so much spontaneity and sympathy as strenght and courage, which achieved the second place in the final of Sprint, offering to her country its first medal in a World MTB Orienteering Championships. Also Bulgaria and Sweden did a couple of good results, with Stanimir Belomazhev reacing the 15th position in the Sprint final and Cecilia Thomasson being 12nd in the Long Distance race. Although a reference to the home team, Hungary, with Anna Fuzy away from the results of other times, but to show a László Rózsa able to come to do great things in the future, establishing in these World Championships the best results ever of his country in the Sprint (26th place) and in the Long Distance (42th place).

By contrast, countries like Australia and Denmark constitute a surprise by the negative. Gone are the days when Belinda Allison, Emily Viner and Adrian Jackson put Australia on the top of the most medalists of the World. Individually, the Melanie Simpson's 20th place in the final of Long Distance was the best result of the Australian team, but its fair to mention the Men's Relay, which snatched an excellent 9th place. As for Denmark, without its “captains” Erik Skovgaard Knudsen and Rikke Kornvig, is no longer a team feared by all. And without the bronze medal of Nina Hoffmann in the Middle Distance race, the Denmark would be virtually alongside of these World Championships. The 5th place of Gaëlle Barlet in the final of Sprint, the same result of Laura Scaravonati in the Middle Distance and, in a certain way, the bronze medal of Anna Kaminska also in the final of Sprint, are unable to hide a set of results below the expectations, both for France as Italy and Poland. A further note to the Czech Republic, possessor of the best terrains for MTB Orienteering worldwide, with a school that never ceases to give to the sport some of its most promising figures, with technical and cartographers of the highest level but still without reaching the Elite world titles in ten years of Championships.

And yet...

Romania, Turkey and China Taipei make his debut in these World Championships of 2012, with the Turks and the Chinese clearly outside the high-wheel of MTB Orienteering, but with Romania to show some quality here and get two interesting results, by Tamás Bogya at Sprint (51th place) and Zoltán Tóth, in the Middle Distance (50th place). Finally a word for two countries that are not regulars in these Championships. After six years of interregnum, the United States submitted a team of three female athletes, certainly warlike but without achieving significant results. As for Brazil, brought to these Championships a male athlete and one female, with Barbara Bomfim achieving an interesting result, getting the 51st place in the Middle Distance race.

It only remains to speak of the organization of these Championships. From what we were hearing and seeing, the note to give to the organization of the 2012 World MTB Orienteering Championships is very high. Good maps and courses, good logistics, much sympathy and attention to the several teams, put these Championships in a place of reference of the best that has been done on the MTB Orienteering events. In relation to the communication and media, the stakes have never been so high and it was possible, "in direct", to follow step by step the events unfold. Missed, no doubt, the press dossiers - the webpage was forgotten and the last entry date yet from 20th August (!) - but this is a single stain in a huge quality tissue. It should be noted that these World Championships confirmed for many that the Sprint race should be away of the program of the Championships and the new rule that allows cycling out of the paths is approved. More and better map reading, more navigation and, above all, greater sports fairness turn the rule in a particularly wise decision.

Time to turn the page

Now it's time to turn the page, advancing already our eyes to the north of Estonia and to the town of Rakvere, near the Gulf of Finland. It is there that, from 26th to 31st August 2013, will take place the XI World MTB Orienteering Championships and the VI World Junior MTB Orienteering Championships. Some information is already available at the webpage of the event at and the first Bulletin can be seen HERE. As for the IV World Masters MTB Orienteering Championships, it will take place later, presumably in 10th to 13th October, in ... Portugal!

Joaquim Margarido

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