40 men and 40 women will compete in the Sprint and Middle Distance of the 8th edition of The World Games. 17 national teams are qualified to compete in the Sprint Relay.
The International Orienteering Federation has announced last Friday the list of qualified nations and athletes for The World Games in Wroclaw, Poland, from 25th to 27th July 2017. Poland, as host country, qualifies two male and two female athletes. The results achieved at the 2016 World Orienteering Championships mean that another thirteen countries will join the list, with two male athletes and two female athletes each. Such is the case of Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Canada and New Zealand have two spots each, both in Men and Women, for being the best nation from the North American and Oceania regions at WOC 2016. The last qualifying spots are personal spots for reigning World Champions, Asian Regional Champions, South American Regional Champions and the highest ranked individual athletes from non-qualified nations in the IOF World Rankings and Sprint World Rankings as of 1st November 2016. Names like Maja Alm, Denmark, Tove Alexandersson and Jerker Lysell, Sweden, Matthias Kyburz, Switzerland, will join Elmira Moldasheva, Kazakhstan, Yuta Tanikawa, Japan, Inga Dambe, Latvia or Sidnaldo Farias de Sousa, Brazil at the starting line.
Franciely de Siqueira Chiles is another qualified athlete and expressed this way her satisfaction: “Yes, I received the invitation to participate and I'm very happy. This is the result of a lot of effort and dedication. I still had the chance to participate four years ago in Cali, but that was my first year in the Elite and I didn't have the same experience as I have today. It was amazing to see all the best in the World gathered the same event and I to be part of it was a huge opportunity and an inspiration for me. The World Games 2017 are another great opportunity and my goal is to represent Brazil the best way, seeking to learn and get some good results.”
Unlike Franciely, the Spanish Andreu Blanés Reig will make his debut in Wroclaw at The World Games. He also shared with the Portuguese Orienteering Blog some of his thoughts: “Well, it's a very good opportunity. I've never run in The World Games and I'm very excited to be able to experience it for the first time. Also for the Spanish Orienteering, because it's the first time that a Spanish athlete will participate. My goal is the same as in every World Cup stage, i.e. make a good Games and try to be as close as I can to the first athletes.”
Pieces of the Games' History
With the organization of the Olympic Games in 1896, the International Olympic Committee became the governing body for international sport. When the international sports federations expanded, the International Federations felt the need to establish a dialogue with the Olympic leaders and in 1967 founded the "General Assembly of International Sports Federations", which in 1976 was transformed into the "General Association of International Sports Federations - GAISF, the formal organization with Statutes and headquarters in Monaco.
The Olympic Federations within GAISF used the GAISF meetings to coordinate their position regarding the International Olympic Committee. The non-Olympic federations also came together to discuss their specific sport issues. One of the ultimate objectives of almost all of these federations was to become an Olympic Federation and to obtain, through participation in the Olympic program, publicity, fame and honor for their sport. When it became evident that the growth of the Olympic Games was limited, the sports from this NOF group understood that there were only minimal opportunities to be selected for participation in the Olympic Program. The non-Olympic federations nonetheless wanted publicity and fame for their sports, so they decided to form their own showcase event which was named World Games. In May 1979 the steering group announced in a letter to the International Federations that they had found a venue in the United States of America: the City of Santa Clara.
With 1745 athletes representing 58 countries distributed by 15 Sports officials (plus one Invitational Sport, the Water Polo), the first edition in 1981, in Santa Clara, the USA, was first and foremost a pioneer event, testing the concept. With less participants but more Sports (20 + 1), London hosted the second edition of the Games, in 1985. Karlsruhe followed in 1989, The Hague in 1993 - here with the two thousand participants' barrier to be broke (2264 athletes from 72 countries) - and Lahti in 1997.
Orienteering enters the Games
The first edition of The World Games in the new millennium has a special meaning for Orienteering, marking the debut of the Sport. It was one of the 22 official Sports of the Games organized in Akita, Japan, whose edition had a record number of 150,000 spectators. The Australian Grant Bluett, the Norwegian Hanne Staff and the Norwegian team (Birgitte Husebye, Bjornar Valstad, Hanne Staff and Tore Sandvik) were the outstanding names of this inaugural presence, as they snatched the gold in Men and Women individual competitions and in the Mixed Relay, respectively. Duisburg, in 2005, welcomed Orienteering once more as one of the 27 official Sports of the Games, with the French Thierry Gueorgiou, the Swiss Simone Niggli-Luder and the Swiss team (Daniel Hubmann, Lea Müller, Matthias Merz and Simone Niggli-Luder) getting the gold.
In Kaohsiung in 2009, Orienteering strengthened its position in The World Games by reaching one more day (read “one more stage”) in the program. The Russian Andrey Khramov and the Finn Minna Kauppi won the Sprint, the Swiss Daniel Hubmann and the Australian Hanny Allston got the gold in the Middle and Russia - with Andrey Khramov, Dmitry Tsvetkov, Galina Vinogradova and Yulia Novikova - was the Sprint Mixed Relay's winner. In 2013, The World Games made its first incursion to South America. The event took place in Cali, Colombia, and was marked by really impressive numbers: 2982 athletes representing 103 countries, 26 Official Sports and 5 Invitational Sports, 915 Media representatives and, last but not least, 550,000 spectators. On the competitive plan, the Orienteering program kept the same format and the great figure of the Games was Matthias Kyburz, winner of the Sprint, Middle Distance and, along with Daniel Hubmann, Sara Luescher and Judith Wyder, the Mixed Sprint Relay. The Women victories in the individual competitions were the Swede Annika Billstam and the Finn Minna Kauppi, in the Sprint and Middle Distance, respectively.