A sport's World Championships aren't just about medals. They are an occasion when the sport celebrates its attraction and strengths, and shows the top level of the sport to those who take part at any level and to a wider audience.

Expect therefore that next week the International Orienteering Federation will say how many countries are taking part, and for all the competitions to have features that help make a spectacle. So for example there will be some easier controls sited with TV in mind - there will be many other tougher controls out of sight of the cameras. (The championships are carried live by Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish and Estonian National TV, as well as by Web-TV - just 10 euro for the three days.)

Nevertheless it might be interesting to think about the destination of the 18 medals.

Which countries win medals?

Britain last won a forest medal at a World Champs in 2008. Which countries have won the 180 medals available in the 10 years since then (actually it's 181 as there was a tie for the bronze in the men's middle in 2010)?

The answer is that 161 have been won by athletes from Sweden (39), Switzerland (36) Norway (33) France (20) Finland (17) and Russia (16). Much of that concentration is individual athletes winning multiple medals in a year, and sustaining top form over the years.

Of the other 20 medals (average 2/year), Denmark have won 8 (Maja Alm, Ida Bobach and relays), Czech Republic 4, Ukraine 4, Latvia (Edgars Bertuks) 3, and Italy 1.

This year

In this, past performance is a guide to the future.

It takes a great deal of work, plus a lot of direct and indirect support, over many years, to get to the top. And the very top athletes tend to be at the top for many years. An extreme example of that was the same three men (from France, Norway and Switzerland) winning the long distance medals in 2014 (Italy), 2015 (Scotland) and 2016 (Sweden). Two of them are still running hard, and one of them is in home terrain this year.

Daniel Olav

And here are the results of this year's international race:

Tove Gustav

So the short answer is don't expect too many surprises in the destination of the 18 medals.

The past is not the complete answer obviously, because there is gradual change in who takes part, but also because the type of terrain makes a difference. Although all potential medallists will have spent significant time in Norwegian terrain in the last few months we can expect those very experienced with the type of terrain to do a bit better than they would elsewhere.

There do tend to be one or two medals being won by someone not so expected each year though - and maybe there is a bit more chance of that this year with qualification races (in the middle distance) for the first time since 2013. A good example of such an unexpected winner happened last year with Isia Basset of France winning the Middle Distance Bronze Medal.


So now over to you to pick out some favourites:

Here are last year's World Champs (Latvia):

Last month's World Champs Test Races Results -

And finally, when considering recent form, note that a Norwegian team - Fredrikstad - won the Venla Relay two months ago. And two of its members, both in the top 10 of the World Ranking List, will be running this as a home WOC. Marianne Andersen has won 14 WOC medals so far. Kamilla Olaussen has won none, so far. (Out of interest they did say at Venla that her dad won Jukola in the year she was born.)


British Prospects

Recall the achievement categories that are recognised in the strategy:

  • medal (top 3)
  • podium (top 6)
  • top 10
  • top 20

More on this in an On The Red Line preview article for last year's European Champs

Possibly the best shot for a medal is the relays, particularly the men's, because we have good teams and the leading countries only have one entry each. Britain's last medal was the men's relay gold in 2008 (Graham Gristwood was in the team then, and is back this year after two years not able to run the relay through injury). The men have made the podium in three of the last four years. The women have a highest of seventh in that time. For both it's a case of running well will give a top 10 finish, with the position depending on how many other teams do the same and the usual chance factors that occur in relays - hopefully the podium, and just maybe there's the shot at a medal.

As regards individual results all this year's nine athletes have run at least two World Champs before. All will run an individual discipline either long or middle (and Jo runs both), and six of the nine have an individual top 20 in a previous year. So expect all to be targetting top 20, and some will certainly (and realistically) be aiming higher.


There is still time if you'd like to drop a tenner in the kitty towards travel and accommodation costs of the athletes and/or send them cheering messages.

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