Saturday, January 28, 2017

The 2016 Trail Orienteering Season

The two most prestigious TrailO events in 2016, the European Championships and the World Championships, provided both novelties and surprises. We had the first use of an electronic validation system at the European Championships, the first ever participation of an African country in the World Championships and the new TrailO Relay format, which replaced the Team Competition. Among the surprises were the increasing number of young competitors enjoying success in this discipline, and Slovakia and Italy taking the European and World titles respectively in the TrailO Relay and successfully challenging the general Scandinavian dominance.

Both of the top events, the European Championships at Jeseník in the Czech Republic and the World Championships at Strömstad in Sweden, caught the attention of all TrailO addicts and brought to the forefront a new group of young athletes who are already beginning to make their mark. Jorge Valente, Spain, Johanne Biering and Karoline Saxtorph Schulz, both from
Denmark, Tereza Miklusova, Slovakia, Iva Lovrec, Croatia and Daniel Locker, Czech Republic are young athletes with great potential who are taking their first steps in this discipline.

At the age of 19, Iva Lovrec was fourth in the TempO Final in the World Championships, while Karoline Saxtorph Schulz, just 15 years old, was the best Danish competitor in PreO in the Open Class. And what about Daniel Locker? Second placed in his TempO qualifying heat, he finished the final in twelfth place, ahead of many of TrailO’s greatest names. And all this at the
age of 13!

New format and new technology

At the end of May in Jeseník, Czech Republic, the European Championships brought the great novelty of an electronic validation system, used for the first time in international competition with the approval of the IOF. Although there is much still to be refined, the speed of publication of the results and the chance to follow the progress of the competition online were great steps forward in the presentation of the event.

The other great novelty was in the competition programme, and it had a very positive impact. Replacing the Team Competition that has been held since 2004, the TrailO Relay proved to be a thrilling new format. It has a fascinating strategic component and brings fresh dynamism to this discipline. The final results saw Remo Madella, Michele Cera and Alessio Tenani take the European title in the Open Class for Italy, while in the Paralympic Class the favourites Sweden were the winners, the team consisting of Inga Gunnarsson, Michael Johansson and Ola Jansson.

In the TempO competition there was a tight fight between the Czech Pavel Kurfürst and the Norwegian Martin Jullum, with the penultimate task at the last station proving fatal to Jullum’s hopes. In the end, just eight seconds separated the two contenders, with Kurfürst achieving the first-ever gold medal for the Czech Republic in a European TrailO Championships. Sweden dominated the PreO competition, winning four out of the six medals. In the Paralympic Class Ola Jansson got a clear win over Michael Johansson, with the Ukrainian Vladislav Vovk - World Champion in 2015 - having to settle for the bronze medal. In the Open Class Stig Gerdtman was the winner with his team-mate Jens Andersson finishing in third place. Second-placed Martin Jullum finished with the same points total as the winner, but getting four of the six timed control tasks wrong resulted in him missing his goal of the gold medal, in the year in which he announced his farewell to top competition.

Swedes dominated at home

The month of August was heading towards its end when the ‘cream’ of world Trail Orienteering assembled in Strömstad, Sweden. The Europeans were joined by competitors from Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and, for the first time in the history of the Championships, also an African country, Egypt. Using the same competition plan as at the European Championships, 114 athletes fought for the world titles in PreO, TempO and TrailO Relay.

Kicking-off the Championships, the TempO competition had as its great winner the Norwegian Lars Jakob Waaler. After a weak performance in his qualifying heat, he was the fastest and most accurate of the 36 finalists, reaching his first gold medal ever in the World Championships in 13 attempts; he has competed in every World TrailO Championships up to now. The Swede Marit Wiksell and the Finn Pinja Mäkinen took the silver and bronze medals respectively. Ten years after winning the world title in Finland, Martin Fredholm managed to get a tasty home victory in the PreO Open Class. After eight competitors had achieved a full points score at the end of the first day, Fredholm showed his ‘nerves of steel’ on the day of reckoning, being the only competitor in this super-elite group to repeat a clean race. In the Paralympic Class, Michael Johansson was able to pull back a two-point disadvantage from the Russian Pavel Shmatov, both finishing the competition with the same score, but with the best performance on the timed controls earning Johansson his second world title in the last three years.

Kept for the last day, the TrailO Relay had 18 Open and 9 Paralympic teams competing for the medals. Repeating the excellent performance that earned them the European title, Inga Gunnarsson, Ola Jansson and Michael Johansson were the big winners in the Paralympic Class, beating the Ukrainians and Finns, second and third ranked respectively. The big surprises were in the Open Class, with the Nordic favourites well beaten by the extraordinary performances of Marián Mikluš, Dušan Furucz and Ján Furucz, who gave Slovakia the first gold medal in its history. Portugal’s second place was also historic, its best ever Orienteering result in a World Championships.

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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