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WTOC: Big success stories for Norway, Slovenia and Ukraine

Photo: Donatas Lazauskas

The teams from Norway, Slovenia and Ukraine came away with the biggest smiles from this year’s World Trail Orienteering Championships (WTOC) held in Lithuania, where teams from 25 nations met for a week of exciting competition. Both the TempO and the Open PreO gold medals went to Norway, whilst Slovenia and Ukraine took the Relay titles. The Paralympic PreO title went to Ola Jansson, Sweden – his fourth WTOC gold medal.

The TempO competition was held first; it consisted of a qualification and a final, with the top 18 from each of two qualification heats competing in the final later the same day. Norway showed strength in depth from the start in getting all their 5 competitors through to the final. The competition area was parkland with many individual trees marked on the map, making some of the control stations very complex. The later stages of the final took place in a lively thunderstorm with heavy rain, forcing the event administration to retreat to the covered entrance area of a nearby large hotel where, fortunately, the staff were very helpful as the hotel had also provided sponsorship.

The final proved a triumph for two young Norwegians who were separated by just 4 seconds – close in TempO terms. Gold medallist was Vetle Ruud Bråten, taking part in his first major international event, and silver went to Martin Aarholt Waaler, son of last year’s TempO champion Lars Jakob Waaler. Slovakia’s Ján Furucz, a member of his country’s gold medal relay team a year ago, took the bronze, with Marit Wiksell from Sweden missing out on a medal by just 1 second.

Photo: Knud Vogelius

The classic PreO format of TrailO took place over 2 days, and what a contrast! On Day 1 there was rain throughout, sometimes torrential, whereas Day 2 was dry and bright. A land museum with many historic buildings set in park and woodland was the venue for the first day, whilst Day 2 was in a predominantly open area with long-distance views. The Waaler family took their second gold of the week, with father Lars Jakob becoming the first orienteer to win both a TempO and a PreO world title. In the Open class Norway again won two medals, the bronze going to Geir Myhr Øien. Silver medallist was Pinja Mäkinen, Finland, TempO champion in 2013; she had the same score as Lars Jakob Waaler but was a little slower at the timed controls. Paralympic class winner Ola Jansson, Sweden now has 7 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals to his name in European and World TrailO championships since the first WTOC, which he won, in 2004. Silver went to the 2015 champion Vladyslav Vovk, Ukraine and bronze to Jana Kostová, Czech Republic.

Photo: Knud Vogelius

The Relay format, first staged last year, was held on a golf course on a sunny and warm day. Teams of three had to solve 27 PreO tasks (9 each, in any order), followed by a timed control. At the last-leg timed control, in a new location close to the finish, competitors went in reverse order of standings at that point. Spectators (including each team’s first and second legs) were treated to a fine view of the control, along with hand signals from a marshal showing each competitor’s success in answering the 4 tasks. This control proved difficult, with none of the 33 competitors in the two classes answering all 4 tasks correctly!

The outcome was a clear victory for Ukraine in the Paralympic class (13 teams), one place better than last year, followed by the Czech Republic and Sweden. Slovenia, with 2007 Open PreO champion Krešo Keresteš on third leg, won the Open class (20 teams) to great acclaim, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia second and third.

The Event Centre was at the spa town Birštonas in south-eastern Lithuania. Under the overall leadership of Andrius Jovaiša, many of the marshals were hard-working and enthusiastic young orienteers, including a group from OK Vihor in Croatia, organisers of WTOC in 2015. Next year’s WTOC will be held in nearby Latvia.


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