Looking down the list of WOC relay medallists over the years, France only get a mention once: silver medal, Japan, 2005. Looking forward from that competiton, the future looked good: in Thierry Gueorgiou and Francois Gonon they have the basis for one of the best relay teams of all time. But, alas, it wasn’t to be. Gonon has plugged away manfully, producing excellent runs year after year, but it appears that Tero has done something to upset the orienteering gods: vying for the gold medal in each of the last three finals, he’s found three different ways to lose it all. In 2008 he swallowed a bee; in 2009 he stopped to help an injured competitor; this afternoon he missed a control. To be honest, as we realised what he’d done, it wasn’t really Tero that I felt for, it was Gonon, and also Phillipe Adamski, the first-leg runner. Tero already has a drawerful of gold medals; Gonon has none. Alors, the world championships are in France next year. Allez-y!

Revenons a nos moutons: WOC 2010. It went well, with a couple of caveats. Firstly, using the ski centre was good from the point of view of organisation and audiences, but it compromised the quality of the competition. The qualification races (which looked pretty scary) were better than the finals (whose courses struggled to pass TD4).

Secondly, the IOF still isn’t quite there yet as far as gaining a larger international audience is concerned. Making people pay to watch the online TV coverage is a ridiculous own-goal. And even if you had paid to watch it, it wasn’t possible to follow the GPS tracking of the relay because they were worried about competitors finding out about the courses. Can it be so difficult to quarantine the competitors? If the IOF is really serious about orienteering breaking out from Scandinavia and Switzerland – where fans could watch the races on telly – they’ve got to make the sport available and accessible worldwide.

Instead of focussing on doing that, the IOF seems set on tinkering with the Championships, e.g. by having a mixed relay (no, thanks) or a mass-start individual race. We already have mass-start races: the relays. Mass starts mean following is allowed, and we don’t need any more of that! Maybe a mass-start score event would be fun, but is there really room for one in the schedule? One change that would add some excitement would be to make the Sprint a chasing start, with your start time depending on your performance in the heats. (The biathlon has some events of this type.)

Last but not least, well done to Team GB. Our 4th place in the men’s relay today shows that we do have a strong squad and there’s no aspect of orienterring development in this country that is money down the drain. Orienteering is about navigation but it is also about running and though the purists might baulk at the idea, we do need to coax some of this country’s best runners to have a go. Perhaps it’d be unrealistic to expect the Laura Kenneys and Ryan McLeods of this world to transfer to orienteering, but I think it is a valid approach for BOF to set up a fully funded retraining programme for county 5k and 10k champions.

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