Ralph Street on stage for the World Cup Knockout Sprint Flower Ceremony
The second day's racing of World Cup Round 3 in Laufen, Switzerland was Knock-Out Sprint. It was a tremendously exciting day, brilliantly organised and planned, as morning qualification and then quarter-finals setup a spectacular afternoon's racing. This was in and around the narrow streets and passageways of the Old Town, and there was great TV coverage for the large and noisy crowd gathered in the specially constructed arena.
The winners were Vojtech Kral (Czech Republic) - who also won last year's World Cup Knockout Sprint, and Tove Alexandersson (Sweden) - who has won every World Cup race this season.
Ralph Street won the bronze medal. He was joined on the podium by Kris Jones, perhaps the first time GB has had two podium places at a World Cup individual race.
The British team had a great day with four runners, Alice Leake, Megan Carter-Davies, Kris Jones and Ralph Street running well to get through the two morning rounds to be amongst the 36 men and women in the afternoon semi-finals. There were eight races in the afternoon, three semi-finals for both women and men, and then the finals, all with a lot of drama and excitement. Alice and Megan were both third in their semi's a few metres behind second, with only two to qualify. But Kris and Ralph, running in the same semi (which also included Matthias Kyburz) took a 1-2 to both make it through to the final. And then Ralph came third to win a World Cup bronze medal.
Kris was sixth in the final, after he saw a flag at a junction on the runout that he took to be the start kite, when it wasn't. He went straight ahead as the other five turned right. He notes that a) clearly he wasn't following, and b) that then running the course was probably the easiest run he'll ever have to sixth in a World Cup race.
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The day began early with qualification races in the town of Zwingen, one stop on the train from Laufen. The terrain included quite a complex old castle.
The first twelve in each qualification race were through to the first round of the knockout. Charlotte Ward missed out as with an identical time split ties were resolved by World Ranking List position.
Ralph in the Castle in the Qualification Race. credit: Fred Härtelt
Alice at the final control
The qualified athletes, twelve from each heat, then "picked" their quarter-finals in a short indoor procedure. After which the quarters were quickly underway. First three in each of the twelve races to get through to the afternoon.
The Heat Pick underway; OK Ravinen clubmates Gustav Bergman and Jonny Crickmore discuss (credit: IOF/Malin Fuhr)
The quarter-finals used a butterfly system from the first control, with gaffled loops using a second pivot control. It was hectic.
Chris Smithard narrowly missed out in a sprint finish, and did not start the next day.
That reduced each field to eighteen athletes. Four British runners got through: Alice Leake, Megan Carter-Davies, Kris Jones and Ralph Street.
In the afternoon the racing was from the arena in Laufen. There were six semi-finals, with athlete introductions, "athlete's choice" - with each athlete having twenty seconds to secretly choose one of the three course options, a short pause, and then off. And seven or so minutes later that race was over to be quickly followed by the next. The first two from each semi would make the final.
Ralph and Kris were in the same semi-final, and took the first two positions.
Megan and Alice were both third in their races.
After the semis were the two finals, each followed by a flower ceremony.