Tim Robertson and Maja Alm were the big winners of the PWT China Tour 2016. With three Sprint stages and a Middle Distance WRE, the event took place in Beijing and Dabeigou, involving about 70 participants in the Elite category.
Starting from the initiative of seven enthusiasts, all of them coming from the Nordic countries, the Park World Tour was born in order to give Orienteering a new life and make it more visible. Investing in a model that could almost be defined as a Sprint World Cup, the idea was to create a competition to bring the orienteers to the urban areas, mixing with the locals and to put them running through the crowd.
With determination - and a large dose of idealism - it was in 1996 that arose the Park World Tour's first edition, distributed by four stages. In the following year, the event's six stages could attract five thousands spectators and broke up a historical barrier in 1998, bringing to China, for the first time ever, an Orienteering event. Thanks to its virtues and merits, the model would eventually succeed, attracting the attention of international bodies that oversee the sport. Based on this example, in 2001 the Sprint distance was added to the World Orienteering Championships program, so keeping up until now. From Vasa, Finland, the first city to host a Park World Tour stage, to iconic cities such as Vienna, Shanghai, Sydney or Budapest, it's all a success story that's told in a moment where PWT celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Good start for Johan Runesson and Maja Alm
This year the Park World Tour returned to China. Two cities, four stages, six days of competition and about seventy participants in the Elite category, these were broadly the numbers of this year's edition, that took place between the 24th and 29th October. Celebrating the Beijing O' Week, China's capital hosted the first three stages of the program, while the last stage took place in Dabeigou Forest Farm in the Shunyi district, around 60 km NE of Beijing
The Beijing Botanical Garden offered a pleasant surrounding for the Sprint race that opened the PWT China 2016. Along with a typical autumn weather, the scent and rich colors of different flowers and trees were a pleasure for all senses. Course setter Jaroslav Kacmarcik had created nice courses to the northern part of the park with varying elements that required accurate navigation. It was no surprise that the Danish Maja Alm was the fastest in the Women Elite class, but the following positions would have been difficult to guess before the race. Almost 50 seconds down, it was the British Alice Leake who was second, a mere 8 seconds in front of the Chinese Huao Shuang. Among top 10, it was eight different nationalities.In the Men Elite class it was a lot less obvious winner as the Swedish Johan Runesson - better known for his success in the forest - beat all the rest. 9 seconds down, it was a really tight struggle for the second place, as the Belgium Yannick Michiels won the British Peter Hodkinson by just 0,4 seconds. In the men's top 10 it was all different nations, representing the international flavour of Park World Tour.
Maja Alm's hat trick
The Beijing Garden Expo Park, on the western side of the city, provided a magnificent venue for the second stage, again in the Sprint distance. It was also a culturally rich environment with monuments, statues, and traditional Chinese houses. These added with tracks, flower beds, different vegetation and some ridges, offered the runners varying kinds of challenges. Among the Women, Maja Alm got her second victory in a row and Alice Leake was second again. A new runner among the top 3 was the Czech Adela Indrakova. In the Men Elite class, Yannick Michiels advanced one position from the day before and was the winner. The young New Zealander Tim Robertson was second, and the Norwegian Øystein Kvaal Østerbø standed in the third place, just one second faster than Johan Runesson.
The third stage of PWT China 2016 was a Middle Distance scoring for the IOF World Ranking, ran in the Beijing Olympic Forest Park, not far from the Bird's Nest (Olympic stadium) and Water Cube. The courses were set in the more technical part of the Olympic Park, though still a forest park area with lots of tracks, but also some hills with varied vegetation that had to be taken into account when making route choices. There was some sprint elements in this Middle Distance, so it required good tactical eye to avoid making any mistakes. In the women's class, Maja Alm scored a hat trick by taking her third consecutive victory on the tour. It was a clear victory with a margin of almost three minutes over the Chinese Huao Shuang, with the French Laurianne Beauvisage finishing third, 3:03 after the IOF Sprint World Ranking's leader. In the Men Elite class it was a tight battle for the victory as the top three were all inside 25 seconds, the French Frederic Tranchand being the fastest this time, ahead of the Estonian Timo Sild and the New Zealander Tim Robertson.
Tranchand and Alm again
After two well deserved rest days and some orienteering promotion activities, the tour moved outside Beijing to the Shunyi district, i.e. from the buzzing city atmosphere to the rural surroundings. Last stage's agenda was a Sprint, from which around half was run on forest and half on hotel park area. The forest part offered mostly good runnability and visibility but in quite a steep slope, while the hotel park area was faster to run. In the Womenn Elite class, Maja Alm became the undisputed champion of the tour by taking her 4th victory of the week with over one-minute gap before the Norwegian Lone Brochmann. Lea Vercelotti, France, was third, 15 seconds behind the second place. In the Men Elite class, Frederic Tranchand was also a clear winner with 22 second gap onTim Robertson and an advantage of 39 second gap over the Austrian Robert Merl, third placed. After the race, the PWT athletes were much asked for by the hundreds of kids having their own competition in the same place. Tons of photos were taken and many insight and tips on orienteering passed on to these future orienteering hopes of China.
The overall winners of PWT China tour 2016 were Maja Alm and Tim Robertson. Alm was in a class of her own, but Robertson beat Johan Runesson by just one point. All in all, it was another fantastic PWT tour in China, which brought top orienteers from around the world together with many Chinese athletes, once again proving the Orienteering promoting value of PWT.
[Photo: Charlotte Ward / facebook.com]