Orienteering in Switzerland

SLOW members Mihály and Jason (both of Imperial College London) were in Switzerland in late August for the 22nd World University Orienteering Championships. These were for 18-25 year olds enrolled in or have just completed university. Switzerland is a beautiful country to orienteer in and the region has hosted many big orienteering competitions in the past. There were big fields with athletes from 30 countries with quite different levels of experience of big events – most had not seen anything like this but at least two have World Championship medals. Mihály competed in the Sprint, Long and Relay disciplines for Hungary. Jason had a full schedule, competing everyday for Hong Kong.

Well done to both for being selected and having performances they are happy with. Both finished as the top athlete in their respective team in the individual disciplines.

Mihály writes:

I have represented Hungary in the event, and had the chance to compete in the Sprint, Long and Relay disciplines. My training over the winter was quite low, because of a shin injury, so I felt that my best chance for a good result was in the sprint. Together with the Hungarian team we drew the map of the embargo as a preparation. This and my experience from previous international events was what I felt to be my strength for the week. The Event Centre was in Magglingen, a town above Biel (connected by a cable-car), where we had a beautiful view from our rooms, and plenty of space to socialise with other athletes.

The Sprint was the opening race of the week, held in the city of Biel, with a grid like city next to a beautiful old-town. I was the very first starter (and finisher), which sometimes could be bad luck, but not this time. The course was quite simple, favouring physically strong athletes. Thus, I tried to push as hard as I could, and drawing the map before was enough to pick the shortest routes on the decisive legs. I got slightly tired by the last few controls, where we had some climbs too, but other than that the course was really ideal for me, and I came 11th in the end. As the first starter, I even had the chance to sit in the leader’s chair for some time. 😊

The Long on the next day was completely different, in a mainly pine forest with some bramble and moss on the ground and a very dense road network. I knew I had to save as much power as I could, so I decided to run as straight as possible, not really taking roads and paths, probably saving a few kilometers by doing that. The main part of the course was the phi-loop in the middle, but up until the arena passage I had a very average run with some mistakes near the controls and okay-ish route choices. The last loop after the arena was the part where I had a really good flow, climbed 5 places, and came 18th in the finish.

After this I had two rest days, then the Relay (top banner photo) was held on the Long’s neighbouring terrain from the same arena. I was a first leg runner, and the excitement started for me right after stepping in the forest after the start triangle. 30 metres into the forest I heard a scream behind me; I’ve just seen a small brown flash, and a French guy lying on the ground. A small deer sprang out of the bushes hitting the French by doing that. A German and a Polish guy stopped with me, looking at the French (clearly in shock), talking to him, asking to respond somehow. Luckily, he had no injury, just frightened, after 20-30 seconds he told us to continue, and was standing himself ready to continue. During my run I was very upset, feeling far behind from the others, which is probably why I haven’t really made mistakes, and came in the 2nd lead pack, only 2 minutes behind the leader. My teammates ran well too, and our team came 7th (without second teams)!

All in all, my runs were over 95% during the week, and I am very happy about them. My training was not perfect, but mentally I was there, and my focusedness paid off. Not to mention that I got to spend a week in a beautiful place with many old friends I knew from EYOCs and JWOCs after a bit of time, when I could not race in international competitions.

Jason writes:

This is my first World University Championships, and I am grateful to have the chance to participate. It is always inspiring to compete in a great atmosphere with the top orienteers in the world.

Having five races in five days is quite demanding, but I quite enjoyed the terrain and the courses. The Middle terrain was especially challenging, with steep slopes and dense forests, while the Sprint and Long courses were more physical.

I am generally satisfied with my results. I had great performances in the Sprint and Sprint Relay, with high speed and minimum mistakes. The Long and Relay went mostly fine, but I made quite a lot of mistakes in the Middle.

Altogether it was a wonderful experience. I am looking forward to more training and getting closer to the top orienteers in the future.