A small team of Irish juniors competed in the Junior European Cup (JEC) over the weekend 30/9 to 2/10 2016. The event was held in the Trossachs area of Scotland which is known to be really tough and so it proved. It is for M/W 18 and 20. The standards at JEC are really high. All nations can enter 6 athletes per category compared to 4 at JWOC. Given the great strength in depth of the major nations this makes it very tough for the smaller countries.
We entered a team to support our Scottish colleagues and to give our juniors some further experience of high level competition on forest terrain particularly with EYOC and JWOC 2017 in mind. We particularly wanted to give some of our 18’s such experience.
As was the case at JWOC the event was dominated by Switzerland with only Sweden giving them some real completion. For example in the relays they were 1st and 2nd in both womens and mens. I am actually getting quiet fond of the Swiss National Anthem!
The results made me ponder the future of junior orienteering. These Swiss athletes adopt a more or less professional approach to the sport. Several are in their military service years and thus can devote considerable time to training. The two top Swiss girls are living full time in Finland preparing more or less full time for JWOC 2017. The Swedes have long had orienteering gymnasia where the best juniors go to special secondary schools and focus on orienteering in parallel with their studies. The top Swedes also take the sport really seriously. For example Sara Hagsrom the top Swedish junior last year took one whole year off to prepare solely for JWOC 2015 in Norway (which she dominated). The Danes have set up a “centre of excellence” in Aarhus University where the orienteers are allowed to put the sport first and are permitted to let their studies work around their training (of course this means it takes them several years longer than normal to complete their studies). The proof of this is in the outstanding performances of their athletes at the last two WOC’s. The British also have established a centre of excellence at Edinburgh University, which is fantastic though not at all as well funded as those in Denmark or elsewhere. A similar centre at Sheffield is being developed.
Where does this leave us and the other smaller nations? Undoubtedly the gap will become wider. I am not sure what the answers are but we need to think about where go from here. A big issue we have is a lack of good forest maps to train on. In my opinion all of our best juniors are very good orienteers but they lack speed in terrain (both running speed and speed of map reading / route planning etc. while running) simply because they don’t have the maps to train on. Personally I feel this is an important issue for the IOA.
Back to JEC 2016. The photos attached show the team. Emer, Róisín, Aoife, Caoimhe and Conall are standing in front of the event centre at Dounards which was built to house Dutch refugees during WW2. Paul and Peter had left at this stage but they can be seen in the picture of the mens relay team. I was very proud to be with our group. They were committed and focused and as often with the Irish proved to be amongst the friendliest of the nations. I also feel that given what I said above we punched above our weight in terms of results. Full details can be found on the event web site but a quick summary is as follows. Note there were about 45 athletes per class and 30 relay teams.
Pictures from the event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145491671@N07/albums/with/72157671198536643
Event Website: http://www.scottish-orienteering.org/jec2016
Drone video of Mens Relay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw5pnxoGxGw&feature=youtu.be
– Mike Long
- Simona Aebersold (SUI) 11:11 A 1 min win.
42. Emer Perkins 16:52
- Andrea Svensson (SWE) 13:52
35. Caoimhe O’Boyle 16:08
40. Aoife Mc Cavana 16:40
42. Róisín Long 17:19
M18 2.6 km
- Isac von Krusenstierna (SWE) 12:24
34. Conall Whelan 15:23
M20 2.8 km
- Thomas Curiger (SUI) 13:37
30. Paul Pruzina 15:33
37. Peter Meehan 17:17
- Simona Aebersold (SUI) 46:05 A 5 min win! Remember this name. This is a future world champ.
38. Emer Perkins 84:16
- Paula Gross (SUI) 63:00
28. Aoife Mc Cavana 77:37
34. Róisín Long 81:16
M18 7.8 km
- Simon Imark (SWE) 54:47
M20 9.1 km
- Joey Hadorn (Sui) 61:46
28. Paul Pruzina 77:55
40. Peter Meehan 110:39
Mens: 1. SUI, 2. SUI, 3. NOR
Paul came in at 18th place leg 1, Peter 26th and Conal 24th.
Incidentally the 1st leg was won by the great Finn Olli Ojanaho who dominated both EYOC and JWOC in 2015 but has a torrid time this year so it is good to see him back
Womens: 1. SUI, 2. SUI, 3. DEN
Róisín came in at 21st place in Leg 1