2012 World Orienteering Championship

WOC 2012, Switzerland 

14th-21st July 

by Darren Burke (CorkO)

A team of 8 headed to Lausanne (Switzerland) this summer for the World Orienteering Championships (WOC) 2012. Given that it was an Olympic year, it was appropriate to find that our accommodation was located across the road from the Olympic Headquarters in Lausanne. At the opening ceremony we also found out that over 100 governing bodies for various sports are based in Lausanne, but not orienteering.

(Back, l-r: Hugh, Nicolas, Ruairi; Front, l-r: David, Ciara, Rosalind, Colm, Darren)

I headed to Lausanne 1 week before WOC began, so took this time to train in relevant areas to both the Long and Middle distances, the 2 individual races that I was selected to run in. I also trained on relay type terrain, as I was picked on the relay team when the WOC team was announced. 

WOC began with the Sprint Qualification race in the morning followed by the Sprint Final in the afternoon. The qualification race was held in the university. I went and spectated at this race, cheering on Nicolas, David and Colm, along with Rosalind who were all attempting to qualify for the final. The sprint qualification has the same format as the Middle and Long qualification, three heats, with the top 15 in each heat qualifying for the final. Nicolas Simonin (BOC) was the only one to qualify for the final. 

Later in the afternoon we headed into Lausanne-Ouchy, a touristy part of Lausanne which is located on the shores of Lake Geneva. The arena was set-up with a run-through where the athletes came through before heading out on another loop on the course. There was a big screen and commentary, along with a remote control helicopter which was used to capture some overhead tv images. With crowds that surely ran into the thousands, there was a very good atmosphere, particularly when any Swiss runner entered the arena. Ladies first, and it was the Swiss athlete Simone Niggli who took gold, her umpteenth WOC gold. In the mens race it was a Swiss 1-2-3 with Matthias Kyburz winning, the other two Swiss men on the podium were are called Matthias (Merz & Müller). Nicolas finished in 27th place which was a superb result. 

Long Distance Qualification (©worldofo.com)

The Long Distance Qualification was the day after the sprint, on Sunday. Like all WOC races, there is a quarantine zone where athletes wait before they start so as to ensure fair play by making sure that no information about the courses reach the athletes. Phones have to be switched off so there is no communication with the outside world. We had to get an army lorry from the quarantine zone, which was a school hall, to the pre-start, where there was a small warm-up map. I then entered the start proper which took a few minutes and a few hundred metres to get all the way to the start line. Then I was off into the Swiss woods to try and finish in the top 15 of my heat. My plan was to run a steady race, be safe and try and avoid getting stuck in green like had been encountered in the training areas. I was happy with my start, good pace and was accurate. Lost time at No. 6, hit a control that wasn’t mine, lost concentration and took a couple of minutes to figure out what I was doing, not smart.

After that mistake I refocused on what I was doing and got back orienteering. After the drinks station my stomach felt a small bit ill so thoughts of my long distance qualification race from last year where a similar issue occurred entered my head. Thankfully the sick feeling didn’t last too long so I upped the pace. Took safe route to 15 but to 16 I probably lost a few seconds. The longest leg on the course was next but there didn’t appear to be many route choices, so went via tracks where I could. But my direction was a small bit off at the end of the leg, hit green which was near where the control was, found a track, and made a parallel error. Looked around but no control so headed away from the control, found more green and my control. Think I was lucky here.The rest of the course was ok, maybe a few seconds lost here and there but nothing of note. Finished in 31st place in my heat. Can’t say that I was pleased with the result, but I was generally happy with how I ran. 

No rest before the Middle Distance Qualification race the next day, Monday. This area was in the Jura so was very different terrain to the long distance. The middle distance race was the one I was hoping to do well in, having had some good results this year. But on the day, these results stood for nothing, and it ended up being a race to forget. Started ok, legs didn’t feel tired after yesterday. Was not too certain going to the 1st control but got it ok. 

Middle Distance Qualification 


On the way to the 2nd control I bashed my knee, off a fallen branch I think, but that didn’t affect my race or the relay later in the week. Took a track option to 3 but at 4 I made my 1st mistake, overshot on a track and then lost time finding the control. Got 5 ok but again made a right mess of 6, it was a pit on a flat area, knew where I was approaching the control but just didn’t see the control. Found another control, knew where I was but still couldn’t find the control. Finally did, more time lost. 

I got the next control ok, but going to 8 I ended up too high, messed about in some green before realising the control was lower down. Misinterpreted the map/terrrain here. After making a few mistakes at this stage I thought I’d be safe going to 9, but messed it up, more time lost. Overshot 11 too, ended up left of it. In the end I was 32nd, but it was my race that I was particularly disappointed with. Not only was the race technical, it was also very physical. So got beat up making my mistakes, not a good day. 

I knew I had messed up the Middle race but afterwards I wasn’t feeling as low as I thought I would be. I think the reason for this was that I still had the relay to run. I had a few days to recover between the middle qualification race and the relay. I actually ran the middle final race as a training run on the Wednesday, and also ran on the relay model area. Body was feeling tired at this stage. After some discussion the relay running order was finalised, Nicolas, Colm and then me on 3rd leg. 

We were again quarantined for the relay, so spent a bit of time penned in there as the women ran first. Nicolas then lead the Irish team off, and had a fantastic race, handing over in 14th place. Colm dropped a few places during his run. When your incoming runner passed through the spectator control the next runner was then allowed to enter the changeover pen. From the changeover pen you could see the big screen with GPS tracking. So when I got in there after Colm passed through some of my course was on the big screen. It allowed me a sneak preview of part of my race, the long leg from 6-7. This was definitely beneficial. As I waited the Brazilian team changed over and then just in front of me the New Zealand team headed off, maybe 20 seconds of a head start.

(©Eddie Bergeron) 

I chased after NZ to the 1st control, taking different routes. His control was different to mine so that allowed me to catch-up. Saw him a bit over the next few controls and as we started the long leg to 7 we were both together. On a track between 6-7 we caught and passed the Brazilian. But going up a hill I let the New Zealand guy get away from me and he disappeared. Got the next loop of controls ok, and as I left 9 up a steep bank I saw the Brazilian punch the control below me, the last I saw of him. I kept running at my own pace. I missed 14, was too far right of it, so lost some seconds here, maybe 30secs-1min. After that it was down to the spectator control which also doubled as the last control, and then through the spectator passage. A long run with a hill for the 2nd half, it hurt. Once back on the course we had a short loop. Missed 17 slightly and then took very safe routes to the finish. Was definitely tired at this stage and my running speed had dropped. 

Got the 2nd last control in the forest and then down the hill to the finish. Was satisfied with my run. Ran what I was able to do, did make a few small mistakes, but not enough where it affected the teams result, didn’t have the legs to stay with the NZ lad. This was my 3rd WOC, with me a spectator for the previous two relays, running the relay this year was one of my goals so was happy to have been selected. 

Being Switzerland the competition was very well organised. You can find full results and maps at http://www.woc2012.ch/en/event-centre.html

I wore GPS for the relay so you can see where I went here, http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/20120721WOCRelM3-Web/

Next year the World Championships are being held in Vuokatti, Finland from July 6th to 14th. Having recently returned from a training camp in Finland, WOC next year will hold different challenges to this year, with the middle/relay terrain being Scandinavian in type, but the long terrain is very fast, akin to forested sand dunes. 

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