Update: video of today’s area by Ivan Sirakov and Andy Bary’s compilation of some of the best mistakes

The first rule of orienteering is “Know where you are.” Orienteering is a sport of finding places quickly, but the finding places is the most important part. This morning it was the qualification races for the Middle-distance competition at the World Championships, and the terrain was very tough. And a lot of the competititors, especially among the women, had a hard time. Watch the GPS tracks to see what I mean.

I sympathise and empathise with their plight – wanting to make a good start on a 300-metre leg in an important race, but you have to adapt your tactics in such complex and physically demanding terrain, and know what to do if you realise you don’t know where you are. Something it’s easy to forget, for example, is that the first control is only about 120 metres from the road. Tone Wigemyr found herself at parallel features 50 metres south of the control, and, not knowing where she was, she ran north to the road. After relocating, she quickly found the control and saved her race. Contrast this with the 15-20 runners who ended up slowly (or not-so-slowly, adopting the so-called headless-chicken mode) progressing from one cliff to the next, examining each one for some magical feature that might reveal it on the map.

wigemyr

Like I say, I empathise with the runners who got lost this morning, but as you watch the GPS tracks you can see some examples of very bad orienteering. Partly this can be excused by the tension of a big race, but some of the runners probably shouldn’t have been there. I’m sure I’m not exaggerating if I say that there are 10,000 Finnish orienteers who are better than the competitors who were representing some of the countries today. Orienteering does need to be a world sport, but the top countries need to organise masterclasses for some of the new orienteering nations, rather than inviting them once a year to get lost at the World Championships.

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