In July 2018 in Hungary, in the city of Kecskemet, the Junior World Orienteering Championship was held. It was colorful, dynamic and very interesting for our junior team: there were both ups and downs, which will be discussed further.
But everything in order. This year in Russia the selection system for the junior team has changed a little - the importance of sprint disciplines and, in principle, the speedy capacity of athletes' running shape has increased. And it is absolutely justified: over the past five years the speed of both male and female orienteers has grown by more than a minute per kilometer, and in 2020 for the first time there will be held a separate sprint World Championship. We want to remain in the top on international competitions, so we are trying to immediately apply all innovations in our country. Now the mandatory selection point for the national team is running 3 kilometers on a stadium. Junior boys (under 21 years old) should show the result not slower than 9 minutes 30 seconds, and junior girls (up to 21 years) - 11 minutes 10 seconds.
Thus, the team representing the country at the Junior World Championship was formed, and I must say, it turned out to be young and perspective. In general, the whole JWOC was "young" this year, 2000 year born prevailed, which is so far in fact not even the 20th group. And I want to note that all the guys set goals for themselves on JWOC, and the selections for them were only a passing stage of preparation, but not, as often happens, that because of high competition, everyone prepares for the selection races, and to the international starts we come in worse shape.
But this is behind, and this year the schedule of juniors was clearly planned up to July 7 - the day of departure for the Championship - and thought over to trifles. Everyone somehow coped with their studies and went to different training camps. Of course, almost everyone visited famous international relay Jukolan Viesti, held in mid-June in Finland, because many of us are running for foreign clubs on Jukola. And it is important that more and more young talented sportsmen find themselves Scandinavian clubs, where they go to train, get acquainted, share their experience and develop!
Most of the teams visited Hungary for training camps, a few of them even more than once. Our team tries to keep up with the world trends and understands the importance of such events - after all, without trainings on close terrains with an appropriate orienteering type on given terrain it would be very difficult to show something on JWOC. The organizers proposed a very specific and unusual place for everyone, probably the most technically difficult terrain in their country. "Yellow-green" middle with a labyrinth of aisles in a thorny juniper, covering the relief, physically exhausting long and a dynamic steppe relay race. We decided to use official model maps from organizers and arrange one more training camp directly in Hungary. Let me remind you that in October, almost immediately after Junior European Cup, the team went to Hungary for the first camp and brought a lot of experience and impressions.
It is difficult to overestimate the benefits of such camps. Some people think that the athlete who knows how to orienteer well should run without errors on any terrain, but I don’t agree. There are different types of orienteering, from the «Moscow azimuth» to the so called line challenge from object to object, as in Sweden. And even the most professional sportsmen, who are not familiar with a new terrain, can’t show their level, because they don’t know what type of orienteering is more profitable, safer and faster, what should be paid attention to, where you can speed up or, on the contrary, run more accurately, and how to spend your energy depending on the ground and weather and many other small things that form an ideal performance.
That's why, not being able to go to Hungary with the team in October, I tried to plan a JWOC precamp. Hungary is the best example of this most unusual type of orienteering. In the bulletin for middle discipline was written - a labyrinth. What is it like we learned at our technical camp.
Honestly, from the first training on the map I came back all in tears, completely disappointed with my orienteering skills. I didn’t understand how the vegetation was drawn, how to distinguish relief and just how to run there. But we were as productive as possible, we had orienteering twice a day, and soon I got it! I began to enjoy orienteering and my self-confidence was coming back! And it cost me diligence, sweat and blood, literally, because in Hungary it is very hot and very frisky. Together we were getting up for morning runs, planning distances, looking for the control points, discussing and sharing experience, getting tired, having a rest and laughing! We united on a camp and only improved the team spirit on JWOC, which is extremely important. After all, I want to be part of a friendly, fun and charged team, like our team this year!
In addition to physical trainings there are many resources for theoretical preparation for any competition. We also used them to prepare for JWOC. Having all the information and samples of maps, you can simulate situations from the upcoming starts in your hometown. We were walking in Google Maps and watching panoramas of the streets, inspecting the maps of competition areas and route choices of athletes who have been running there before. Nowadays there are so many possibilities, and we should use them! Such analysis gives a lot, but, unfortunately, it is seldom used by coaches in our country. It's silly, having the same Internet resources, come to competitions less theoretically prepared than others..
We tried to use that all on our camp and made a stupid mistake, for which we got disqualified on JWOC sprint. Well, it has become a good lesson for us, and we will try not to repeat such mistakes again.
Anyway, we were determined to show our maximum on these important competitions and came to Budapest on July the 7th with a great mood. The capital of Hungary met us with hot +30, which stayed on for the whole week. It is interesting that the weather there has strongly influenced athletes on the distance. For example, on the first day long distance the traditional distribution of the strongest in the last part of the starting list did not bear its fruit and was not profitable at all, as it was impossible to make any paths on that terrain, but the last athletes were running under the scorching sun and temperature 6 degrees higher than in the morning, which is a significant difference. As a result, many seized a heat stroke and barely made it to the finish line, someone just started to make mistakes. In such weather it is necessary to drink water from the very morning with equal intervals for the best hydration of your organism during the race. Of course, we should use all refreshment points and don’t be afraid to lose time on them.
It was a very hard long. Boys had to run more than 15 km, which turned out to be the longest long in the history of junior world championships. Girls had 10 kilometers. The terrain was fast, with sandy roads, and running passability was good almost everywhere, which made the red line an ideal option for almost all legs.
Even the classic leg across the whole map did not imply any long way around or «winning» roads, because they all were going across the red line. Therefore, analyzing gps leaders, we were not surprised by their direct ways. That day speed and endurance were deciding factors, so the clear favorites of both groups won by a margin: Swiss Simona Aebersold took the eighth gold medal, having won 5 minutes to the second place, and the Norwegian Kasper Fosser was the first with a gap of 4 minutes. We were very glad with Anastasia Grigorieva and Kristina Smirnova, who became seventh and tenth, Daniil Kashin, a stable stayer, finished on 15th place. About myself I can say that I have not realized my potential and ambitions at all, because of too big excitement and nerves. We must plan what are we going to do in the quarantine beforehand, but I spent four hours shaking, literally, with fear and could not concentrate on reading my book. As a result, I went to the warm-up with tightened muscles and could not run at all. Therefore, I chose a strange angular way for a long leg, thinking that I will rest on the roads, but only tired more. In general, it was not my day, but teammates didn’t let me being upset!
We had an extra day for some rest and recovery, but we, of course, went to the sprint arena, cheered up for the runners and ran after them in a training pace. Organizers planned a very interesting sprint with two-tiered sections and artificial obstacles, forcing competitors to choose tricky and inconvenient variants. Simona expectedly won her fourth sprint, and in men’s category first gold for Germany won Colin Kolbe.
After the official rest day the most interesting part of the programme was waiting for us - middle distance. To get to the A finals you have to be in top 20 in your qualifying heat. From Russia successfully qualified 7 juniors: five girls and two guys. We with Kristina even managed to win our heats! Just showed our stable orienteering in the difficult beginning and then kept working in the running part. It's nice to win unbeatable Aebersold!
However, we realized that we should not be too happy, because middle final will be much more tricky and everything can turn out differently. In technical information it was said that the type of orienteering on the proposed terrain is like in labyrinth. And indeed, in the thick and tall juniper, beyond which the relief is poorly visible, we had to find narrow, gladey passages. And if you get lost, finding yourself in this infinitely identical labyrinth is very difficult. Therefore, that day it was not necessary to speed up, we just had to pass the distance clearly and concentrated. We chose reliable routes, sometimes ran into a control from behind, didn’t have any time to look ahead and had to constantly be in the map. It was incredibly interesting, difficult and very exciting, because even the recent leaders were making mistakes and all positions changed on the last loop. You could not easy off and lose concentration at the exit from the labyrinth part, you had to go through concentrated till the very end. I didn’t manage to pass without mistakes and also left a lot of time in the end. There were tears, but our coaches supported and forced us to smile. After all, relay is still ahead!
On the last day I woke up with a feeling of dissatisfaction with my personal results and realized that I don’t want to leave this place showing nothing. We did not make any expectations and did not make guesses, we just realized that we are a stable team, and if everyone shows what she is capable of, everything will turn out. And it happened. An excellent first leg runner Dasha Panchenko came in the leading group with a lag less than a minute, which was a smart result for such a fast relay. The second fighter - Kristina - showed a confident orienteering, because she was not afraid to go out of the group and run with her own variant. As a result, she passed the baton to me, the third leg, in the second position, 20 seconds from the Swede, because at that time it became already known that a strong team of Hungarians mispunched on the first stage. I ran away, hearing "good luck" from someone in the quarantine, took a map and started to do what I can. Already on the second point I had a gap for more than a minute, but I lost it on the third, running two meters from the point, because I was looking at the map and analyzing the 4th leg. By the way, this is my frequent mistake. Then a contact fight with the strongest girls took place, when you make a choice between your orienteering and their authority. I always choose the first option, because I know that I'm not worse at all, and if I am running alone, I can only go ahead. From 4th to 8th point we were running together, holding an incredible pace and forcing each other to run on our limit.
At one point I was fourth in a row and was very afraid that I would have to fight at the finish for the third place with a very fast British girl. Fortunately, it was not necessary. After the 8th point girls couldn’t stand their own pace and began to make mistakes. They had a circle way to the 9th, where I went str8 and slightly rested. On the next one Simona didn’t understand our location and went somewhere to the right. Firstly, the two remaining rivals jerked after her, but changed their mind and ran after me. We met Swiss girl only at 11th, where she was looking for the previous one. It gave me confidence and I just ran forward. As it turned out later, Norwegian Victoria with British girl had the same forcing, but they were mistaken, while I quietly approached the spectators’ control. An obligatory view leg was long, almost 300 meters, and during it our girls standing all along its length poured me with water from head to foot about six times, which was a very cool cooling down in such a hot weather. Our coach ran with me about half of the leg, shouted and said not to slow down my pace. At the exit from the corridor I heard that I was winning more than a minute from the pursuers and realized that if I will pass the last loop without errors, I would stay in the same place. I didn’t say to myself "first", because I just didn’t believe and didn’t want to have a joyful thought in my head to distract myself. I didn’t slow down, but only increased the gap passing clearly, as I can. And then this unforgettable moment: I am running up to the last point and realizing that we are the first! I am smiling and shaking my head, when a commentator asks: «do you believe?» These emotions are difficult to describe and impossible to compare with something else. As I took the flag of Russia from Dania's hands, then I took girls' hands and we rushed to the finish line. Girls were shouting something and I was smiling, enduring and saying that I wasn’t alive. We repeated a jump of our elite girls and after the finish and checking cried out loud. We weren’t shy of our emotions, because we realized that this was an amazing race, our well-deserved gold and just our day! Oh, these photographers and interviews, we didn’t have time to have a lunch and relax. But we talked with a smile to everyone, hugged everyone and didn’t believe that this was happening with us! Oh yeah, it was a great gift for Kristina's birthday, who was just going crazy and said it was the best day of her life! Our boys, probably, were too much worried for us and had not their race, but the celebration was common.
I want to notice an incredible team spirit at this JWOC! We got a maximum pleasure from the trip, supported each other and made smile! It’s very important to have such understanding coaches and athletes! Vladimir Vladimirovich and Yuri Alexandrovich, a separate Thank you - I haven’t thought before that with coaches it can be so cool, fun and serious at the same time! And of course thanks to all who was worried, who cheered us up, who invested and trained! Without you we wouldn’t have achieved this! Tired but happy we departed each to our home city with a luggage of experience, emotions and motivation for the next year!