Norway defended their Relay World Champion title, and Sweden pulled off an impressive performance. Both races were dramatic, with mistakes throughout, however both Norway and Sweden were always in control, retaining the lead throughout the race.
Sweden’s team of Emma Johansson, Helena Jansson and Tove Alexandersson enjoyed a victory by 2.41 over last year’s champions Russia, holding the lead throughout.
There were no dramatic early mistakes by runners from the best teams, as happened in the men’s race, but few athletes completed the course without some distinct time loss at some point on their course. Finland (Venla Harju) kept in touch with Sweden on the first leg and were 45 seconds down at the changeover, but Jansson stretched the lead by a minute on the second leg.
However as Alexandersson completed her leg comfortably but not entirely without error – she missed her way on the spectator run-through and lost a minute between controls 9 and 13 – the Russian Natalia Gemperle was running well, and took advantage of a couple of mistakes in the middle of the course by the Finn Merja Rantanen to pull up into second place, which she held to the end. Rantanen was not pressed in bringing Finland into bronze medal position.
There was a sprint finish for fourth place between Latvia and Switzerland, just won by Sabine Hauswirth for Switzerland. The Latvian team was fourth after leg 1 (Inge Dambe) and was never below fifth – a very good team performance. Norway took the final podium place.
The Norwegian team of Eskil Kinnerberg, Olav Lundanes and Magne Dæhli ran an impressively controlled race throughout to take what in the end was a clear victory, with France getting the silver medals and Sweden the bronze.
There was drama from the start as Fabian Hertner, Switzerland’s first leg runner, could be seen on GPS making a huge mistake at control 1, losing more than 4 minutes. Great Britain, New Zealand and Hungary also faltered badly there. Sweden and the Czech Republic set the pace, but Frederic Tranchand for France was going well too. It was he who came to the changeover first, along with Lithuania and Norway, with Czech Republic and Denmark not far behind.
The decisive leg was the second one, where Olav Lundanes for Norway had a brilliant race to come back with a lead of 1.21 over France and Lithuania, with Sweden and Ukraine a little over 2 minutes down. This lead was too much for Thierry Gueorgiou to make up on last leg as Magne Dæhli continued Norway’s near-faultless progress; Gueorgiou cut the gap to 45 seconds at one point, but he was never close enough to see the leading Norwegian.
“I was really nervous,” said Dæhli, “I knew Thierry is in really good shape. Yesterday I struggled at the beginning, and today I was very focused on the way to the first control. It felt really good except for the first control after the arena passage, where I made a small mistake.”
“I was just focusing on my orienteering,” said Gueorgiou, “and I didn’t see Magne on the course. The second place feels like a gold for us. We are really satisfied.”
Estonia ran a good race throughout to finish fourth, to the great pleasure of the home crowd, and the podium places were completed by Switzerland, picking up well after Hertner’s early mistake, and Russia. The Lithuanian team dropped back on the final leg after being surprisingly close to the lead up to the second changeover.
For the full official results, go the WOC webpage: www.woc2017.ee.
[Press Release from the International Orientering Federation 2017-07-07; photo: Matias Salonen, IOF Digital Team]