mapClip_Olten1 The 2024 World Cup begins with a Knockout Sprint, the fastest possible start you might say. It's to the now well-established format except the heats are the day before the knockout stages.

Illustration above is from Bulletin-4 for the World Cup Round in Olten, Switzerland

For women and men qualifying heats will reduce the fields from over a hundred to thirty-six. Then quarter-finals (three out of six progess), semi-finals (two out of six progress) and then the finals. Women and men are set the same challenges in the knockout stages.

The second race of the opening round is a traditional sprint.


Olten

Olten is a relatively small town established in medieval times at a crossing of the River Aare. But it is more prominent than its size. Firstly for the tourists attracted by an old town centre, and secondly for the railways, with a main station, a big depot and being where the Bern - Zurich line crosses the Basel - Lucerne one.

The knockout heats are in nearby Zofingen.

Several old maps are published on Eventor, and there has been the opportunity for athletes to train in the area outside the central embargoed area.

The Races

The organisers have a very high reputation. The final bulletin describes and illustrates some complex points, and promises the use of artifical barriers. So it rates to be quite complex sprint orienteering, more technical than last year's European Championships.

Knockout

The heats are on Friday 24th from 1pm UK time.

They are followed by heat selection - some competitions, such as last year's European Championships, use an algorithm. Sometimes, such as this, everyone gathers and the athletes choose one at a time which heat to join. Basically those with the best heat times choose first.

This is a bit of fun for the teams as there is a big crowd and the athletes mostly know each other, so once the first picks are made others are picking who to race (and who not to) and a choice can produce plenty of ooh's and aah's.

On The Red Line It tends to work better on the women's side on the men's, at least in the sense of spreading the best runners. That's because there is more correlation between the heat results and likely speed in the knockout stages. In Denmark in 2022 the deference with which the first slot in heat 1 was left for Tove Alexandersson was splendid. On the other hand in the men's race Jonatan Gustafsson and Tim Robertson were choosing right near the end, no doubt to the delight (not) of those whose heat they joined. From the halfway point expect to see some of the heats being filled whilst others still have several spaces.

The finals broadcast is 11am-1pm UK-time. The quarter-finals begin at 9am UK-time.

Sprint

The broadcast is 11:10-13:40 UK-time.

The start order is not as usual. It is World Ranking position that determines the start order, but on ths occasion the top 40 women and men run before the rest of the field. The broadcast is when the top 40's are running. .

Who's Not Racing

There is no Matthias Kyburz the current World (Denmark 2022) and European (Italy 2023) champion in the knockout which may make as much difference to the pattern of the men's knockout as the fact that the heats and finals are on different days. Also missing from the races from the top of last year's World Cup podium is Gustav Bergman. Another well-known name missing is Olli Ojanaho.

On the women's side current European Sprint Champion Sara Hagstrom is missing, and Tilda Ostberg who won the Euromeeting Sprints last year is also injured.

In the GB team Will Gardner has replaced Chris Smithard.

What to expect - knockout sprint

Some top runners will miss out on qualification. For example Joey Hadorn, previously second in a World Cup knockout sprint, missed qualification at the 2022 World Champs. And with the big countries having eight runners here it will be harder than at a World Champs to make the top 36 - the top 12 in each heat.

With twelve GB runners running the knockout, and all capable of making the cut, how many will make it? Perhaps don't be too surprised if it's just half of them.

As for GB presence in the broadcast - well let's certainly hope so - but a top-2 place in a semi-final is never easy so making the final is always tricky.

What to expect - sprint

We'll likely see Grace, Charlotte, Megan, Jonny and Ralph in the broadcast.

Probably it will be the later starters who contest the wins, but in the men's who knows how the order will shake out?

Can someone outside the top-40 run to a top position? Probably not, but there have been races in recent years where a runner from way outside the top seeds has got to the podium: Natalia Gemperle (who had missed races for a long while) and Hanna Lundberg (who made a remarkable international debut) come to mind.

World Cup 2024

There are four rounds: the first two rounds (Switzerland, Italy) are sprint, the third and fourth (Hungary, Finland) are forest. Round 3 is a European Championships. Round 4 is also "the World Cup Final". The World Champs in Edinburgh are not part of the World Cup.

The favourites are Tove Alexandersson and Kaspar Fosser. Their closest challengers are Simona Aebersold and (perhaps) Martin Regborn.


GB Team

Women


Men


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