JWOC 2017

JWOC 2017 Tampere, Finland

Ireland was represented at JWOC 2017 by 6 athletes:

W20 – Caoimhe O’Boyle

M20 by Conall Whelan, Paul Pruzina, Ruairí Long, Zac O’Sullivan-Hourihan and Zach Harrington

Unlike JWOC 2016 in Switzerland no one country dominated the results, however two individual athletes did. Olli Ojanaho of Finland and Simone Aebersold of Switzerland won 3 individual gold medals each (and both won silver in the relay). This was no surprise. Both were hot favourites and both had essentially devoted the last year to prepare exclusively for JWOC. Olli had been studying Economics in Sweden but based himself in Helsinki for 1 year specifically to train. Olli also ran at WOC in Estonia this year. He was in the top 20 in the Middle race there and said “that except for the start kite and the final run-in he had no clue where he was”. Simone and her teammate Valerie Aebischer lived in Tampere for a full year leading up to JWOC. Not easy to compete with that!

It was nice to see nations other than the Scandinavians and the Swiss taking medals, e.g. the Czech Republic and Russia. The biggest cheer however was reserved for the red headed Tommy Hayes from New Zealand who came within 3 seconds of Olli in the Sprint and took silver. Yes Tommy has strong Irish links and Yes I did ask him did he want to run for us! Pat Jaffe of Australia and Kayla Fairbairn of New Zealand also have Irish passports. Is this the way to go? France came close to medals in several events; they have invested heavily in full time junior coaches, a centre of excellence at one of the universities etc. and this seems to be paying off. It was also nice to see Sasha Chepelin of UK on the podium.

The relays were won by two very solid Norwegian (men’s) and Swedish (women’s) teams. These countries have such strength in depth. The Norwegians held a 2.5 minute lead going into the last leg and even Olli could not close this gap – though he did try hard and got it down to 1.5 minutes.

From an Irish point of view the highlight of the event were Paul’s 2 top 50 finishes. In fact he was placed 22 in the sprint and 44 in the Middle – both fantastic results. Paul was the first Irish athlete since Conor Short, some 5 years ago, to reach the Middle A final at JWOC.  Another highlight for me was the solid performances of the 2 men’s relay teams with Ireland 1 finishing 26th of 35 nations (Caoimhe ran Leg 3 for one of the ‘men’s’ teams). It was great to see such a strong representation there.

Full details of the results can be found on www.jwoc2017.fi; there were good performances from all of the team with two B finalists, high finishes in the C finals and a tie between Ruairi and Conall over a very tough 10.7 km long course. Conall and Zac are eligible for JWOC 2018 and Ruairi again for JWOC 2019 so all this bodes well for the future.

The Irish athletes were very fortunate to have Toni O’Donovan and Marcus Pinker on hand to guide them through the training and provide very good technical support throughout the event. Toni and Marcus both ran WOC in Tampere in 2003 and had spent several months in the area preparing for that WOC. They have excellent knowledge of the terrain and how it should be approached. Finally thanks to Catherine for looking after us all so well during the event.

Then there was the JWOC party…..all I can say there is that what happens at a JWOC party stays at the JWOC party!

Looking forward to Hungary in 2018 and Denmark in 2019!

Mike Long

Orienteering in Ireland
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