Virtual Control Site, 2020
When can it all get back to how it was before? Who knows, maybe it can't, so here's a summary of the the status of the British squad, and international and big domestic competitions.
Can we be optimistic? We said that the 2020 season ended not soon after it started, which was true in a general sense as little of the season happened as originally planned. In gloomy moments we wonder if this year the season will start before it ends? Perhaps cautious optimism is appropriate. Maybe things won't be quite as they were before but they will still be good, later in the year.
Alastair Thomas took the M21E win on Saturday
It was a great weekend of top quality orienteering in the Lakes on the weekend of October 3rd/4th. Many thanks to Lakeland O.C, Warrior O.C., and the many top orienteers who attended. It was surely the strongest field in the UK this year that has been so disrupted by COVID.
The weekend was part of the UK Elite Orienteering Leaguewho encouraged attendance, and will be as close as we are going to get to a National Champs this year. The League is doing a great job of promoting the sport across the open age categories and both days had a distinct buzz in the socially distanced car parking.
map: Part of Graythwaite
Heavy driving rain is in prospect to add to the challenge of tomorrow's race on the steep and rocky slopes of Rusland Beeches. It's the first of two days orienteering in the Lake District, named "Lakes Reloaded" as it's been put together relatively quickly by normal standards - with the aim of a chance for some top competition. Because of Lockdown, this year's domestic season ended in March almost as soon as it started and before all but one of the major races took place. Also the entire international programme has had to be scrapped.
Encouragingly "Lakes Reloaded" is being well-supported and the startlist seems the strongest field of 2020 in the UK.
It's a middle race on the Saturday afternoon, and then a full length (90/75 minutes target times) long at the Graythwaite Estate on Sunday. The racing will run like the JK individual forest races, with the Saturday seeded and Sunday starts in reverse order of Saturday's times.
The season finished not soon after it started.
There were immediate cancellations/postponements of the big Spring events and the Welsh multiday summer festival. Other events, such as the Home Internationals, held out hope for varying lengths of time, but in the end none could see a way to take place. And that was pretty much it for racing in the UK.
There may be a short Autumn flurry, as has already started in Sweden and Norway - let's see.
But there was considerable creativity on recreational lines. Clubs created MapRun courses for independent exercise, and many regular orienteers reminded themselves about permanent courses. There were the Lockdown festivals.
And so it was across the world, and we had little of our usual fare to report or link to. But there were a few things, here's a roundup.
Chris Smithard, JK Champion 2019, Co-ordinator Lockdown Orienteering, 2020.
At Easter 2019, Chris Smithard won the overall JK Individual Trophy with two hours and nine minutes running, by a margin of just seven seconds. Peter Bray was second and Will Gardner third (28 seconds down.)
At Easter 2020 Chris was coordinating an online festival "Lockdown" for 500 international orienteers. It included 12 stages, and a good deal of social media activity including TV discussions and live coverage of the final. A lot of people are learning a lot, not just about online activity linked to orienteering, but also improving their own skills.
"Lockdown Orienteering" has been the most newsworthy of many online activities in the second half of March and all of April as we "locked down" in the UK. Chris co-ordinated a further "sprint-focused" weekend two weeks later, and there will be another "forest-focused" one 8th-10th May (entries close May 5th.)
The final day of traditional orienteering before the shutdown was Sunday March 16th, the day for the qualifying round of the inter-club competition the CompassSport Cup. Many orienteers therefore enjoyed a nice day out with a focus on club and clubmates to take with them into the shutdown; perhaps we can see it as fortuitous timing.
We notice the countries that have won most orienteering World Cup medals at the top of the 150+ country list of the UN World Happiness Report 2020.
As Lockdown began there were eight GB athletes in the top 50s of the Sprint World Rankings
The pandemic has made clear there are important things bigger than any sport. Health, wellbeing, work, travel, weddings, family visits. Gosh, it even stopped professional football and reduced how much it was in the news.
Those for whom orienteering is a big recreational interest felt quite a sense of loss, as planned outings and trips were cancelled, and events didn't happen.
And so midsummer 2020 passes with no Jukola. There were no events in the spring. The 2020 international orienteering programme has been lost to the pandemic.
The cancellation of the international programme was particularly hard on the top international sprint-focused orienteers, as they had "waited" through 2019, a year with no World or European Champs in the sprint disciplines. And with the pandemic, with another cancellation for 2021, none were scheduled for 2020 or 2021 either.
Several GB squad athletes were in this position. They are mainly focused on the format and they were on track to be at the top of their game this year.
The recent news about next year's international programme, namely that (fingers crossed) there will be major international sprint orienteering at European and World level, is therefore very good.
Fiona Bunn is one of five newcomers to the GB Senior Squad. Credit: JWOC2019 Denmark.
The GB 2020 Senior Squad was announced at the end of January, news somewhat buried by the departure of the UK from the European Union on the same day.
On The Red Line We add our congratulations to the newcomers, and we thank those leaving for their contribution in previous years.
There are 24 athletes. 18 are based in the UK and six in Scandinavia. 15 of them have run at a World Championships. Coincidentally, 24 was also the size of the initial squads announced for 2018 and 2019.
It is an achievement to be invited to join. It brings cachet. It doesn't of itself bring any financial benefit though; there is no official squad training, and it is not referenced in the selection policy. Membership may help provide evidence on the policy's additional criteria, such as commitment to a positive team environment, but it is not the only way to do that. The GB international teams can and often do select non-squad athletes. Graham Gristwood ran the long at last year's World Championships.
New to the squad this year are Adam Potter (Bristol O.K.), Ben Mitchell (Swansea Bay O.C.), Cecilie Andersen (Bristol O.K.) and Sarah Jones (Edinburgh Southern O.C.), all relatively young runners who ran in the later rounds of last year's World Cup. Another newcomer is first year senior Fiona Bunn (Thames Valley O.C.), who won two medals at last year's Junior World Championships (JWOC).
Picture: Last year's GB World Cup Team
COVID-19 As you can imagine this was written before the introduction of the extensive social distancing measures introduced as a response to the spread of the virus causing COVID-19. Many of the events described will be cancelled.
In 2020 it is the first Sprint Orienteering World Championships, with Sprint Relay, Individual Sprint and the new Knockout Sprint. Denmark host, from 6th - 11th July, with the racing in Kolding, Fredericia and Vejle.
The European Championships are hosted by Estonia centred on Rakvere, and are the week of 6th - 23rd August. They include Middle, Long and Forest Relay.
The World Champs are not included in this year's World Cup, the European Champs are (as Round 2). There are two other rounds: Switzerland 20th - 24th May is Round 1, and Italy 1st - 6th October is the World Cup Final.
The Junior World Champs are in Turkey from 28th June - 5th July.
All are accompanied by open races, providing an opportunity for spectating orienteers to take a full-on experience of running and following the international racing.
Here's a summary of six British Championships of 2019.
Photo: Rob Lines
Organised by Mar Orienteering Club at Muir of Dinnet on Saturday 23rd February.
The 2019 Nokian Tyres World Orienteering Championships (WOC) took place in Østfold, Norway from 13th - 17th August. Østfold is the county of the south-east part of Norway, between Oslo and Sweden. The event centre was the city of Sarpsborg. The Championships were very well organised, and the accompanying spectator races were also well attended.
The nine athletes of the Great Britain Team for the 2019 World Champs. Credits: Matt Speake by Karl Orud, Jo Shepherd by WOC2018 Latvia, Charlotte Watson and Megan Carter-Davies by South London Orienteers (from the "Get up to Speed" videos), others by On The Red Line.
It was a forest only World Championships. All three finals, long, middle and relay, were held from a specially constructed arena at Mørk Golf Club, in the middle of the previously unmapped forest. Long and middle used an arena start, and all courses had an arena passage.
Great Britain took a team of nine athletes, supported by Team Manager Ed Nicholas, Coach Liz Campbell and Physio Jane Ashbrook. Of the nine, four are based in Britain (two of whom have spent several years in Sweden), four in Norway and one in Sweden. All had run at least two World Champs before.
Full results are in IOF Eventor - WOC2019.
JK2019 Middle Distance Prizewinners, credit: Iain Shepherd
The 2019 took place in central Southern England from April 19th - 22nd.
The weather was exceptionally warm and dry, and everything about the competition was very good, except the results service and timing which were not up to it.
(It's late Tuesday evening now, and "All results are now under review and will be published as soon as they are validated.")
Top three in the Women's Overall enjoying the weather, credit: Iain Shepherd