Sunday, July 7, 2013

WOC 2013; A beginner's viewing guide

Tomorrow sees the 2013 World Orienteering Champs kick off, with the long distance qualification being held in forest near Sotkamo, Finland. Our sport is becoming easier to follow globally each year, and the past two years I've been humbled by the number of people staying up in NZ and Aus just to watch us race, particularly those who have never stepped out on an orienteering map themselves! It's awesome to come home to friends' excited stories of staying up all night and watching little gps 'sperm' wiggling their way over the map. And I can even laugh when people who have never orienteered before ask me what the heck I thought I was doing on certain controls!
Having more people taking an interest in our sport can only be a positive thing, so to make things easier, I've sketched up a viewer's guide to WOC 2013. Hope it helps!

Race Schedule + Viewing Times

Start/Finish (Fin)
Start/Finish (Aus)
Sunday 7th
Long Qual
Men Only
Monday 8th (am)
Sprint Qual
Monday 8th (pm)
Sprint Final
Tuesday 9th
Long Final
Thursday 11th
Middle Qual
Friday 12th
Middle Final
Saturday 13th

Viewing Info

Information on how to watch the races online can be found on the WOC page. This year the live results and split times throughout the races will be available for free. If you want to watch the full coverage though, there's a fee of 10Euro. But that covers all of the week's races, and includes GPS (for all races including quals, excl. the women's long qual), commentary, the TV productions, and the organiser's personal video coverage. So well worth the token fee! To pay and get full coverage, follow this link (I think).

Qualification Structure

2013 sees the final year of the qualification scheme as we know it. We'll wait and see what next year brings, but for now, the qualification races see 3 different courses/heats run for each gender. 3 Men/Women start at each time, 1 in each heat, with no-one knowing which heat they're on prior to picking up their map. The courses are often quite different from each other, so when you see other competitors in the forest, it's probably best to ignore them rather than follow them! From the finishers in each heat, the top 15 go forward to the final, creating a final field of 45 in each distance. Each country is allowed up to 3 runners in each distance (plus the world champ in that distance), and each heat will have a max of 1 runner from each country in it.


The WOC week sees the racing of 3 different individual distances, and finishes off with the 3 person relay on the final day.

Long Distance:

Looks to be in fast and furious coniferous forest this year, with good visibility for the most part. Having said that, in the areas of more contour detail and less visibility (younger trees), it will be easy to lose time if you're not concentrating. Everyone I've talked to has certainly had fun training in the nearby terrain, so should be some enjoyable racing! However it will be a good mental and physical challenge to keep pushing for the full distance. Given the fast terrain, courses are of record length this year, with a corresponding low km rate expected. (For the non-orienteers, the distance listed for non-sprint courses is measured in a striaght line between controls - so is the minimum possible running distance, whilst climb is measured by the best route possible, so again, is probably less than that actually run!)
Qual: Women: 8.5km, 275m climb, winning time 45mins. Men: 12.5km, 430m climb, winning time 59mins.
Final: Women: 13.4km, 430m climb, EWT 71mins. Men 19.5km, 680m climb, EWT 91mins.

Long distance terrain. Open, sand-dune like.

Sprint Distance:

Both run on the same day, it's always a balance between ensuring qualification, and saving your energy for the final. The qualification is to be run around a holiday park area - plenty of identical looking buildings and garden hedges by the look of things. Certainly fast running, but the potential for hesitations about which hedge the control is behind, or parallel errors. Speed control will be important!
The final is around Sotkamo town, with the arena in the baseball stadium bound to make good viewing for spectators. Plenty of town shops on the map will make for some route choice, whilst the hilly forest area will get the legs burning on the hills! (non-orienteers; distance here is measured as the minimum feasible - so around buildings rather than measured in a straight line)
Qual: Women: 3.3km 30m climb, EWT 13min. Men: 3.7km, 35m climb, EWT 13mins
Final: Women: 3.4km 50m climb, EWT 14min. Men: 3.9km, 65m climb, EWT 14mins.

Middle Distance:

After a rest day, the competition heads into the hills behind Vuokatti for the Middle distance races. Here the terrain is much hillier and more detailed than the long terrain. The bush is thicker and the ground rockier and marshier, making for a far more technical race. Tight navigation will be to the fore, as well as physical strength to keep pushing through the tough terrain and up the hills.
Qual: Women: 3.6km, 110m climb, EWT 25min. Men: 4.1km, 150m climb, EWT 25mins
Final: Women: 5.0km, 195m climb, EWT 36min. Men: 6.3km, 245m climb, EWT 37mins.
Marsh, Rock, Control, Tane. Middle distance terrain.


The final race of the week, and always a highlight. Run like a classic cross country relay, in terms of each team having 3 runners, each running in turn and handing over to their team-mate once back at the start/finish line in the arena. The first runner in each team sets off in a mass start, making for good viewing. There are splits in the courses, so although some controls are the same for everyone, others will be different. When done cleverly, very few runners out on the same leg of the relay will have the same course as each other. However once all 3 runners have finished, every team will have run the same total course.

The Arena and terrain this year is the same as for the middle. So perhaps expect to see some race changing mistakes as errors are made under pressure in the technical terrain!
Women: 4.1-4.4km, 200-220m climb, EWT (per leg) 32-34min, EWT (total) 100min.
Men: 5.1-5.6km 250-285m climb, EWT 32-34min, EWT (total) 100min.

Names to Watch (aside from NZL and AUS):

Simone Niggli (SUI); The queen of orienteering will start as favourite in all of the distances. Has so many WOC gold medals to her name that you need all of your fingers and toes to count them.
Tove Alexandersson (SWE): First year senior after dominating Junior Worlds the last few years. Silver in the middle at WOC 2012 and World Cup wins to her name in 2013. Has been the only one to consistently give Simone competition this year.
Minna Kauppi (FIN):  9 WOC golds to her name including being reigning middle champ. Home town favourite and the face of Finnish orienteering, look for her to have a big WOC.

Thierry Gueorgiou (FRA): The king of middle distance. Sure to be looking to his tally of 10 gold medals this year.
Matthias Kyburz (SUI): Winner of last year's Sprint at WOC, and overall 2012 World Cup winner. Has continued his form into 2013 with 3 World Cup wins so far this season.
Edgar Bertuks (LAT): Surprise winner of the middle at WOC 2012, following up with a Bronze in the Long. Can he repeat it this year?

And if all that's not enough...

Jan at WorldOfO beat me to this post anyway, with more info and links :) WOC 2013: All you need to know!


  1. For the men, look out for Hubmann and Mertz as well - especially for the long distance. Thanks for the link, BTW:)

  2. Thanks Jan! Yeah, I felt bad leaving big names out, but ran out of energy to write more :)