The World Cup 2013 started in New Zealand and the Swedish and Swiss power came on top in the three stages of the opening round. Among the achievements of the competition, there is one name that stands out above all the others: Tove Alexandersson!
In Great Britain or in Portugal, the term “Antipodes" is often used to refer to Australia and New Zealand, and "Antipodeans" to their inhabitants. It's a word that comes from the Greek, meaning literally "foot opposites" (people who inhabit the antipodes would walk "with their feet growing out of their heads, pointing upward"). It was precisely for the Antipodes, in this case for New Zealand, who headed many top world orienteers, looking for the opening round of the World Cup 2013.
The reward of a particularly long and tiring journey would come in the way of ten days of competition, three of them at the highest level, with the dispute of the first stages of the World Cup. The remaining days would be a 'Carnival', with sun, beach, stunning sceneries and even more races, in a program with everything to please everyone.
Simone Niggli out
We have to go back to 2000 to see the opening round of the World Cup appear on the calendar outside the traditional months of May and June. In that year, the competition pluck in Japan on April 15th, following to Australia, to end there more to the middle of October, in Portugal. In 2005 the World Cup would return to the country of the Rising Sun, to the WOC. And we have to wait eight more years to see the competition leaving Europe again, this time in a particularly early period in the season.
This is perhaps the reason for the absence of a significant number of top elite runners. With the major targets aimed for July and the WOC in Vuokatti (Finland), the French Thierry Gueorgiou (3rd in the world ranking) and Frédéric Tranchand (13th), the Russians Dmitriy Tsvetkov (8th) and Valentin Novikov (10th), the Latvian Edgars Bertuks (11th) or the British Scott Fraser (13th), preferred to maintain their regular training programs, whose coordinates pointed, mainly, to Portugal, with Training Camps and the three World Ranking Events in the next month of February. In the women class, things came up differently, and among the first 12 athletes in the World Ranking, the only absent was the super-champion Simone Niggli, throwing for the secondary plan a competition that she won for eight times in the last ten editions.
Hertner and Jansson, the first winners
The Middle Distance race, on Manga Pirau map at Waikawa Beach, opened the hostilities. Sandy terrains and a lavishly detailed micro-relief were the perfect test to the technical and physical qualities of 111 athletes (62 men and 49 women). In men class, the Swiss Fabian Hertner reached his third victory in a World Cup stage, spending 32:58 for 5.3 km of race, less 0:57 and 1:33 than the Swedes Johan Runesson and Jerker Lysell, respectively 2nd and 3rd. The Swedish and the Swiss, who monopolize the top eight places, mostly by the fault of the Norwegian Olav Lundanes and a completely needless 'missing point', blocking a clear victory to the World Champion of Long Distance.
In the women class, the Swedish Helena Jansson was the most regular, returning to the victories in the World Cup a year and a half after his triumph in the Middle Distance final at WOC France 2011. Jansson finished the 4.3 kilometers of its course in 33:31, with the Danish Ida Bobach being second and the Russian Tatyana Riabkina being 3rd, with more 1:23 and 1:50, respectively.
Matthias Kyburz, of course!
The second stage of the World Cup, took place in the gardens of New Zealand's Parliament and the Governor's house, in Wellington. Disputed in the morning, the qualifying series of the Sprint showed again a Fabian Hertner in excellent shape, taking place with the Swedish Tove Alexandersson on top of the list of forty male and female athletes who reached the final. Final in which Alexandersson had to give her best, beating the Swedish Annika Billstam for barely three seconds, 19:32 to 19:35 of her compatriot. The NZ Lizzie Ingham, one of the leading Sprint experts and ranked 9th in the last WOC in Lausanne, gave to their hosts a moment of joy, finishing in the third place, just twelve seconds after the winner.
As in the women class, also the male winner, the Swiss Matthias Kyburz, stood well beyond the fifteen minutes recommended for a competition with these characteristics. The World Champion of Sprint and winner of the World Cup 2012 overall, won comfortably in 17:52, with his compatriots Matthias Merz and Matthias Muller in the third and fourth positions, respectively, with further 38 and 49 seconds to the winner. This fantastic trio - the “Mathiases” -, was broken by the Swedish Jerker Lysell, with a time of 18:27 and the corresponding second place.
The 'bis' of Tove Alexandersson
The opening round of the World Cup 2013 had its epilogue in the sandy map of Rotonui, near Puketapu, in Hawke's Bay. The course was held in an unusual format, the Start Chasing - in fact, over the past twelve editions of the World Cup, this model has only been used three times and all of them in Norway (O-Festivalen 2008 and 2009 and NORT 2011) - with a prologue bonified for the winners. The decisive race was a Middle Distance which consecrated the Swedish athletes Tove Alexandersson and Jerker Lysell.
In the female sector, Tove Alexandersson seized the best time in the prologue and the resulting bonus to start with an advantage of 38 seconds over the Finnish Minna Kauppi and 2:11 over the Norwegian Anne Margrethe Hausken-Nordberg. Although pressed by her more directly opponents, Alexandersson would manage to keep the first position throughout the race, concluding with the time of 37:09. Anne Margrethe Hausken-Nordberg would change places with Minna Kauppi, staying in the second place 1:23 up to winner, while the Finnish would be ranked third with a gap of 1:43 to Tove Alexandersson.
Clash of titans
Peter Oberg would be the first to start in Men Class, with an advantage of 31 seconds over Fabian Hertner, 53 seconds over Olav Lundanes and 1:14 over Jerker Lysell. A sequence of small mistakes and hesitations relegate Oberg and Hertner to a secondary plan, showing Lundanes and Lysell fighting hard for the victory. As for the Women Class, the Swedish prevailed over the Norwegian with 40:33 against 40:38, thanks to a tip end absolutely overwhelming. This was the third victory of Jerker Lysell in a World Cup stage. Oberg would have to settle for third place, 41 seconds after the winner.
The World Cup 2013 has now a long pause, only to return on the first day of June, with a Sprint on Norwegian soil, included in the Nordic Orienteering Tour. Learn more about the opening round and its developments at http://news.worldofo.com/ or watch the event webpage at http://www.oceania2013.co.nz/.
[Photos by Jan Kocbach, at www.worldofo.com]