2014 World Orienteering Championships, Italy

Post date: Aug 04, 2014 12:15:24 AM

Over the passed few months the majority of our CorkO members have been competing or actively involved in our Summer Orienteering league. However, one of our club members Darren Burke was concentrating on a much bigger orienteering challenge as he formed part of the Irish Orienteering Squad who travelled to Italy in early July to compete in the 2014 World Orienteering Championships. Darren did us and Ireland proud on this world stage and has kindly written a detailed account of his experience in preparing and competing at this global event.We hope it will inspire and encourage you to pursue your orienteering goals.

The Irish team was selected after races held in Italy over the June Bank Holiday. I was picked to run in the Sprint and on the Relay team. The Sprint Relay team was going to be based on Sprint Qualification race results. Having already spent a week in Italy prior to the selection races I departed for Italy on June 27th which gave me a week to prepare for my first race. The first afternoon involved some sprint training around Treviso city centre. I was joined by other members of the team for this training, who had flown out the same day to Italy. After training we headed north to stay near the city of Conegliano, famous for Prosecco! Not ideal when you have a World Championships to prepare for. Over the weekend of June 27th-29th the Alpe- Adria Cup was taking place. So I took part in the sprint and middle races. The Sprint was held in the centre of Conegliano. What was unique about this sprint race for me was that it was the first time that I got to use the SportIdent AIR+ system which was also going to be used for the Sprint Relay at WOC. 

The SI AIR system doesn't involve having to punch the SI Unit at the control, you just have to get within 50cm of the control for the punch to register on your SIAC card. The SIAC card also beeps (quietly) and flashes to let you know that the punch has been recorded. Being able to run through a control is therefore important and adds another element to route choice selection for sprint races it is used in. I was happy with how the system worked in practice during the race. We also ran the middle race at the Alpe-Adria cup which was held at Cansiglio, 1000 m above sea level. This was a very tricky area and I can’t say that I’d a run I was happy with, but any opportunity to race on a somewhat relevant terrain to the WOC relay has to be taken. The next day, Monday 30th, we took the train down to Venice in order to do some more sprint training. This year the Sprint Qualification was to be held on the Venetian island of Burano with the final being held on the eastern part of Venice. That still left an awful lot of city for training, with the entire city being mapped. An annual orienteering race is usually held in Venice, the last one being in 2012, which wasn't successful due to high tides. I ran here in 2005-2008, so this was my 5th visit to Venice for orienteering, and if you get a chance in the future to take part in this competition, I would definitely recommend it.

The programme for WOC 2014 was as follows: 

July 5th       Sprint Qualification          Burano

July 5th       Sprint Final                     Venice

July 6th       Opening Ceremony          Asiago

July 7th       Mixed Sprint Relay          Trento

July 8th       WOC Rest Day

July 9th       Long Distance                 Lavarone

July 10th     WOC Rest Day

July 11th     Middle Distance               Campomulo

July 12th     Relay                              Campomulo

The 2014 Irish WOC Team 

Back Row L-R: Josh O’Sullivan-Hourihan (BOC), Nicolas Simonin (BOC), Conor Short (CNOC), Colm Moran (3ROC), Darren Burke (CorkO)

Front Row L-R: Olivia Baxter (LVO), Niamh O’Boyle (CNOC), Rosalind Hussey (FermO)

Venice is actually over 2 hours from where all the other races took place. So after doing the training in Venice we moved to our WOC accommodation in Lavarone (1100m) in the Dolomite Mountains. As luck would have it the apartment we had for WOC was the same one we stayed in for the training camp in May. Being able to prepare for the races in familiar surroundings helped. I took it easy during the week, resting after the Alpe-Adria races in preparation for a return to Venice on Thursday. The mountains are definitely cooler than Venice, so heat wasn’t a factor. Thursday afternoon was when I returned to Venice, not to the city but to Jesolo which is a beach resort to the north. The event centre for the Sprint Race was here and this was where the teams were staying. Jesolo was only around 10 degrees warmer than the mountains! On Friday morning we drove 20km to where we got a ferry to the WOC Sprint Model. I can’t say it’s the first time I’ve gotten a ferry to a race (eg. Bere Island). The ferry dropped us at the start for the model event. A Model Event is simply a training area that is relevant to the race terrain with some controls that would be on similar features to those being used in the actual race. So after an easy run around the model area it was back on the boat to rest up for the Sprint Qualification race the next morning. 

The Men’s Sprint Team:

Darren, Josh & Nick 

It was an early start to get to the boat, if you missed the boat you would be in trouble, no race. The boat brought us to the island of Burano. And from there

it was a short walk to quarantine. Quarantine is a place that WOC athletes can spend a lot of time in. It is to ensure fairness for the competition. Contact with

the outside world is forbidden, i.e. no phones, and it is done to ensure that early runners cannot pass word back to athletes who haven’t started their race. The women ran first so the men had to wait until they were finished before we started. Quarantine on Burano looked like some sort of emergency shelter as the local civil defence had set up rows and rows of beds in the sports hall. But it did allow you to lie down while you waited. Once it was time to warm-up for my race I ventured out onto the warm-up map. Again this is just a very small section of map that you can use to warm-up on but in this case the gate to get onto the map was locked so we were left with just a football pitch to run around. 

My comments on my race can be found here. There were 3 heats with the top 15 in each heat making the final in the afternoon. 43 seconds covered 1st-15th in my heat and I think I was around 45 seconds off qualifying. And since I 26th in Heat C there were 10 people in that time gap. My race wasn't one I was entirely happy with, 1 mistake early on, turning too early, and then missed an alley later in the course which resulted in a much longer route to my 12th control. So without those issues I might have been close, but qualification is a very difficult business. That being said the 2013 Sprint World Champion didn't make the final, so I was in good company!!!

In the other heats Nicolas Simonin finished in the top 15 of his heat so in doing so made the Sprint Final. Nick therefore returned to quarantine before his race. The rest of the team took a boat to Venice in order to support Nick in his final. In the final Nick finished in an excellent 32nd position. The results were surprisingly dominated by the Danes, who clearly had prepared the best for the Venice terrain.

Sprint Results 


1st Soren Bobach (DEN)

2nd Daniel Hubmann (SUI)

3rd Tue Lassen (DEN)

32nd Nicolas Simonin (IRL)


1st Judith Wyder (SUI)

2nd Tove Alexandersson (SWE)

3rd Maja Moeller Alm (DEN)

Approaching Sprint Qual. Finish

From Venice we then headed back up the mountains to Lavarone to get ready for the next race, the Mixed Sprint Relay. 2014 was the first time that this race

was to be held in the World Championships, its inclusion being subject of much debate. It is a 4 leg relay with 2 men and 2 women on the team. The running order is: Woman-Man-Man-Woman.

Waiting for Niamh at the Sprint Relay changeover 

The Sprint Relay was held in the city of Trento. I was picked to run on the team, and ran 2nd leg. Niamh ran 1st leg, Josh 3rd and Olivia on the 4th leg. All the 2nd leg runners were brought out to the change over area together. It was in a small square so the crowd was creating a fantastic atmosphere. This was definitely unique to me and an experience I enjoyed. Once I started my race I found it to be more of a sprint race than a sprint relay due to the lack of other

runners around me. It was tricky underfoot due to slippery conditions and there were a lot of people in the city. Conditions did deteriorate for the later runners with the rain turning into a thunderstorm. I understand that a waitress carrying a tray of drinks may have been knocked over and that was by someone on a team that medalled! I was happy with how I ran and with how the team finished, in 27th place.

Mixed Sprint Relay Results

1st Switzerland

2nd Denmark

3rd Russia

27th Ireland

Arena passage during Sprint Relay 

I now had a few days off before the relay. In between I spent some more time in quarantine with our long distance & middle distance athletes. 2014 was the first year where qualification races did not take place for the middle and long races. The number of starting places that each team got was based on which division they were in. Division 1 countries get 3 places, Division 2 get 2 places and Division 3 countries get 1 place. The divisions were determined based on 2012 and 2013 results. Ireland was before WOC 2014 a Division 3 country so we therefore only had 1 place in the middle and long races. Ireland’s results from 2013 were good which meant that our chances of promotion for 2015 were high.

On the Thursday I went to the Middle/Relay Model Map to do some training. It was very steep and rough in places with even some snow still on the ground in places. The area was at around 1500-1700m up.

Long Distance Results - Lavarone


1st         Thierry Guergiou     France

2nd        Daniel Hubmann     Switzerland

3rd         Olav Lundanes       Norway

40th       Nicolas Simonin     Ireland


1st         Svetlana Mironova     Russia

2nd        Tove Alexandersson  Sweden

3rd         Judith Wyder            Switzerland

Middle Distance Results - Campomulo


1st         Olav Lundanes         Norway

2nd        Fabian Hertner         Switzerland

3rd         Oleksandr Kratov     Ukraine

72nd       Conor Short            Ireland


1st         Annika Billstam          Sweden

2nd        Ida Bobach                 Denmark

3rd         Tove Alexandersson    Sweden

The last event at WOC is always the relay. The women’s’ relay took place first and it was followed by the men’s. I was running 2nd leg for the Irish team with

Nick and Conor on 1st and 3rd legs respectively. Nick had a really good run so I started out with an Australian and Spanish lad. I ran the first half of the course well but made at least 2 minutes of a mistake on the control after the passage through the arena, so lost the group I was with but ended up joining another group. I stuck with this group until the finish. More on my race can be found here.

Relay arena passage 

I was definitely disappointed with the mistake I made but there were some positives in my race too. Based on results during the week Ireland were still in with a shout of getting promoted and other Division 3 countries had to beat us by a certain number of places if they were to pass us out in the promotion battle. In the end our finishing position (27th) was good enough so for WOC 2015 being held in Scotland Ireland will have 2 places for the men in the Middle and the Long races. A very positive result for the Men’s team.

Relay Results

Screen shot from SVT (Swedish Television) during the relay 

Preparations for 2015 will begin for me in October when I will head to Scotland for a WOC 2015 Training Camp, Race the Castles and the Senior Home International.

Darren Burke

Cork Orienteering Club


WOC website - www.woc2014.info

IOF Live Centre for GPS & TV coverage - http://livecenter.orienteering.org/

My training log - http://attackpoint.org/log.jsp/user_5771

My WorldofO.com Profile - http://runners.worldofo.com/darrenburke.html

For updates on the Irish Orienteering Squad: