MeganMegan Carter-Davies, on her way to 6th in the World Champs long race, July 2021 photo: Fred Haertelt

The World Championships (WOC) reached the Czech sandstone terrain for its final races. Thursday 8th July, late on, it was the Forest Relays. Next day it was the classic (or "long") races. With three minute start intervals and 80 minutes (women) 99 minutes (men) target winning times, the event goes on a long while. There wasn't therefore much gap between the relays and the classic races.

Six British athletes took part these two days. On Thursday the British women, Grace Molloy, Jo Shepherd and Megan Carter-Davies, ran well for 7th. The men, Peter Hodkinson, Hector Haines and Ralph Street, were 15th. All of them have had at least one top-6 in this event before, so we think it is fair to call that result disappointing.

On Friday all but Peter ran the classic races, the blue riband races of the Championships. There is an entry quota based on the results of recent World Champs which gives Britain places for two men.

The Classic Races were long, tough and technical. There was an outstanding run by Megan Carter-Davies to sixth place. Grace finished twenty-fifth. With starts in reverse order of World Ranking, and most of the 59 runners ranked above her, Grace started early. Her good run meant she occupied the current leader's chair for quite some time. Jo, who had done just that the last time there was a WOC long, finished thirtieth. In the men's race Ralph was eighteenth and Hector thirty-second.

WOC 2021 Relays - Official Results

WOC 2021 Long - Official Results

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Varsity2011Sandstone Terrain

This picture is from a World of O "Route to Christmas" post nearly ten years ago. The popular advent calendar-like series invites readers to first think about their own route, and then to see what others thought and what happened when runners tackled the problem in a race. This problem is in Czech sandstone terrain. It has particular memories for one of the British team, as they ran it in the 2011 Orienteering Varsity Match (a sporting contest between teams from Cambridge and Oxford Universities.)

The need to choose your own route is a key characteristic of orienteering. This is an example of decisions athletes will take in the World Championships (WOC) on Thursday 8th July and Friday 9th. Thursday it's the forest relays. Friday it's the the long (or "classic") races. At last, WOC 2021 reaches, with its final races, some of the most famous orienteering terrain in the World! It's one of the reasons why so many were looking forward for so long to these championships.

The two athletes in the British team who have not yet run make their entrance to the racing. Both live in Scandinavia and are very experienced (both have won the British Long and have run WOC Long several times before).

The World of O "Route to Christmas" visits Czech sandstone terrain. The course was set by the planner of the Sprint Relay, Radek Novotný.

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peter-bray-2-WOC2021-MF_TBPeter Bray in the final, photo: Tomáš Bubela

The World Championships Middle Distance was on Tuesday 6th July in tough mountain terrain in the Jablonec nad Nisou district of northern Czechia. The borders with both Poland and Germany are not far away.

World Championships middle races have a reputation for being held in the toughest of forests, the sort that rips numbers off backs and means runners finish showing blood. In warm, humid weather the extremely challenging navigation on courses running longer than recommended provided a full-on experience. In the men's race particularly many of the leading runners picked up runners starting in front of them (there was a 2 minute interval) and had company for many controls, which could help them both.

The athletes have certainly earned a rest day before Thursday's forest relays.

In the morning qualification four British athletes qualified for the finals later in the day: Cat Taylor, Megan Carter-Davies, Peter Bray and Ralph Street. Alastair Thomas, who drew the earliest possible start came 16th in his heat (with 15 to qualify). Grace Molloy was 20th in her heat.

In the finals Megan was 26th, Ralph 27th and Peter 34th. Cat mispunched (a result which also includes what other races call "retired".)

Official results

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woc2021-sprint-relay-mapclipMap section, showing the gaffling style and use of artificial barriers

The World Championships (WOC) Sprint Relay took place in the early evening of Sunday 4th July in the host town Doksy.

Recognising that the town is "not particularly complicated in terms of elite runner navigation" the planning used artificial barriers and plentiful gaffling (British English uses a Swedish word, International English calls it "forking".)

It was a great sight, a picturesque town graced by such athleticism in evening sunshine. Again the TV coverage was great. In the race Sweden won gold without making it close. Tove Alexandersson ran from the front, and established a lead on the first leg, with only Switzerland close (3rd was 38 seconds behind Simona Aebersold). And then, with the exception of a measured start on leg 2 by Emil Svensk matched with a very fast start from Joey Hadorn for Switzerland meaning they hit one control together, the Swedish runners ran alone. Gustav Bergman extended the lead on leg 3 and anchor leg Sarah Hagstrom had plenty of time to celebrate with her team on the run-in.

The close racing was everything else. A tremendously fast third leg by Kasper Fosser (34 secs quicker than any other man) gave the Norwegian final leg runner Andrine Benjaminsen sight of Elena Roos for Switzerland on the way to number 3. Together at the last control Benjaminsen did the fastest women's time of the day (by 7 seconds) to outsprint Roos deciding silver and bronze. Maja Alm took Denmark from 7th to 4th on the last leg. Megan had a close race with Teresa Janosikova (who is featured on the pre-Champs version of TheRunIn podcast.)

Great Britain, Alice Leake, Ralph Street, Peter Hodkinson and Megan Carter-Davies, were sixth. It's a new best place in this format for Alice and Megan. Ralph was in the team that was 6th in 2017. Peter was in the team that was 4th in 2016. Alice returns to Britain with diplomas for top-6 finishes from both Sprint and Sprint Relay.

Official results - WOC Sprint Relay

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TrainingCzechia1"Relevant terrain" - a training area

The World Championships Middle Distance races are on Tuesday 6th July.

They are at Jizerské hory. It's tough mountain terrain with plenty of high cliffs, broken ground, and marsh at altitude 530 - 83om. The racing is on steep slopes with granite boulders and cliffs, and variable visibility. Runnability is also variable, from very good in mature beech forest, to significantly limited by the steepness of the slopes covered in uneven rocks, in some parts with fallen trees, high blueberries and thickets too.

The qualification races are from 8am UK-time. The final begins at 2:50pm (men start), with the TV broadcast starting at 3:20pm, ending about 7pm. The first 15 in each of three heats qualify for the final, plus some lower placed runners where they are the highest placed finisher from their country. British runners will assume they need to be in the first 15 of their heat to make the final.

Most countries, and that includes Britain, enter three men and women, and the team manager will elect one early, one middle and one late starter amongst the three. The expected winning time in the heats is 25 minutes. That's 3.5km + 200m climb for Women, 4km + 250m climb for men.

The British runners are: Alastair Thomas, Cat Taylor, Grace Molloy, Megan Carter-Davies, Peter Bray and Ralph Street.

Middle Qualification Start Times - Alastair is first into the forest.

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alice-leake1-spf_LukasBudinskyAlice Leake on her way to "4th in the World". photo: Lukáš Budínský.

The World Championships (WOC) in Czechia began with the Individual Sprint races on Saturday 3rd July. Morning qualification was followed by afternoon finals.

The racing was at Terezín, which was a great setting. It's an eighteenth century fortress, comprising a citadel and a walled garrison town by the Ohře river just south of where it joins the Elbe. It's multi-level and the planners cleverly used artificial barriers to set some intriguing problems for the athletes. The TV broadcast was very well done. It was compelling viewing, showcasing the top-level of the sport at its best through great filming with smart graphics, GPS tracking and astute and well-informed commentary.

The finals, with the men going first, used very similar courses. The wins were not similar though. In the men's race many of the runners ran quickly enough to take the win, and it was the route choices and ability to reduce hesitations that made the difference. Isac von Krusenstierne who was ranked just outside the World's Top 50 beforehand, and who had been 13th in his heat (with 15 to qualify), handled things best and took the win. In the women's race Tove Alexandersson's speed was unmatched by anyone, so much so that a 30 second error (possibly partly the result of artificial barriers towards the end of a long leg) was not enough to stop her taking gold.

Five of the British runners (photos of all six below) qualified for the finals, Cecilie Andersen missing out.

Alice Leake achieved an outstanding 4th=, a mere 4 seconds off the medals. Grace Molloy in her first senior race, was 12th, saying it couldn't have gone much better. Peter Hodkinson was 14th, Chris Smithard 24th and Nathan Lawson, also debuting for the senior team, was 25th.

Official Results

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alice-leake-v-worldchampsfinal2021Alice Leake, fourth in yesterday's World Championship Sprint Final

The World Championships (WOC) in Czechia have the Sprint Relay in the early evening of Sunday 4th July in the host town Doksy. It starts at 5:20pm UK-time and is estimated to finish just over an hour later.

The TV broadcast, in Britain a paid-for service on the internet (6 Euro), begins at 5:10pm. Yesterday's broadcast of the Individual Sprint Final was very well done. It was compelling viewing for orienteers, showcasing the top-level of the sport at its best through great filming with smart graphics, GPS tracking and astute and well-informed commentary.

It should be a great sight. If the race goes to recent form the medal contests will split in two. Switzerland and Sweden deciding gold and silver, and a closely contested race for bronze with several teams in the mix. Best wishes from On The Red Line to the British quad, Alice Leake, Ralph Street, Peter Hodkinson and Megan Carter-Davies.

Start List - Sprint Relay (26 teams, including No 6 - neutral)

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NathanLawsonNathan Lawson, on a wet day in the Lakes

The World Championships (WOC) in Czechia begin with the Individual Sprint races on Saturday 3rd July.

The qualification races are from 8am UK-time. The final begins at 1:30pm (first men start), with the TV broadcast starting at 1:50pm, ending about 4:15pm. From the three heats it is the first 15 that qualify for the final.

Most countries, and that includes Britain, enter three men and women, and the team manager will elect one early, one middle and one late starter. The expected winning time in the heats is 12 and a half minutes. In the final it's 14 and a half minutes.

The racing is at Terezín, a really interesting location. It's an eighteenth century fortress, comprising a citadel and a walled garrison town by the Ohře river just south of where it joins the Elbe. It's multi-level and the planners are also using artificial barriers. The courses are half grass and half paved - a high proportion of grass for a typical sprint race, and the fortress has some steep grassy slopes which could be "testing" if wet.

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LongTestRace2021-ralphRalph Street in a WOC Test Race, credit Petr Kadeřávek

The World Championships (WOC) in Czechia begin with Sprint Qualifications and Final on Saturday 3rd July.

The Great Britain Team has been selected. The team includes six women and seven men, and includes five athletes making their WOC debut. As the other eight all have at least three previous WOCs, it is an easy description that the team combines a lot of experience with the several newcomers.

Many congratulations from On The Red Line to the whole team and especially the WOC debutants: Alastair Thomas, Cecilie Andersen, Grace Molloy, Nathan Lawson and Peter Bray. Alastair and Grace are first year seniors. Nathan is not (yet) a member of the squad.

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WOCCzech_April_MapclipCzech Terrain

The World Championships in Czechia begin on the 3rd July. The first event is the Sprint, 1,064 days since the previous World Champs Sprint, in Riga in August 2018. The following day is the Sprint Relay (the same gap since the previous one). For many of the athletes that will be at least a thousand training sessions.

Had the COVID pandemic not come about these races would not be taking place. Last year there would have been a Sprint Champs. This year the Czech organizers would only be putting on races in the three forest formats, following the pattern of alternate years for forest/sprint World Champs. The sport owes a big thanks to the organizers for adding the sprints, taking on the full work of an old-style Championships. In addition to which there is a tremendous extra workload arising from COVID rules and precautions.

Britain is hoping to send a full team. This last weekend in May were the final sprint selection races for the team, and next weekend will be the final forest ones.

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