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JWOC Jaffe Files - Relay and Wrapup

Monday, 17 July 2017

A sunny day, bordering on warm for the relays.  By all accounts the Finns were a shoe in for the boys and the Swiss a shoe in for the girls but relays are a law unto themselves.

The organisers put the Finn 5 competition on before the relays which meant that many Finss upped and left!  In the arena there was a reasonable run through but no big screen and many of us couldn’t get tracking to work but the commentary was a bit better today.  We learned fun facts like Simona Abersol and one of her swiss mates have lived in Tampere for a  year before the event.  Now that is pretty serious prep.

There were 58 boy’s teams and 47 girls. The top ten is incredibly competitive. The top two teams of Finland, Norway and Sweden nearly always rank in the top 10, throw in the Swiss, Danes, French, Brits and Czech’s and that’s 12-15 quality teams.  For Australia to make the top 20 is an achievement.  The terrain today was very similar to the Long map. Small rocky knolls, green patches, marshes and rides. The competitors didn’t know it but there was splitting on four controls so following was a risky business.  However, on leg one there are always benefits of hunting in packs.  Many teams achieved their best leg time on leg 1 as a result.  

The boys relay started over an hour before the girls.  Aston and Jarrah (in his last JWOC race) were on leg 1 – probably our two fastest runners. Aston had shown yesterday he could hang with a pack running the last 5 controls with eventual medallist Simon Hector.  At the spectator we waited anxiously as Norway led in followed by Finland and France.  It was close.  Aston was in 13th place and well in contention. Jarrah quite a bit further back around 30th.  Mike Dowling commented to me “well that makes a change, we haven’t dropped our bundle on the first leg”.  He tempted fate. On the short second loop Aston had problems at the “split” control and told us afterwards he had visited all three controls – value for money but perhaps not the tactics Ralph had in mind. The net result was that Aston came back 30th and Jarrah 42nd.  After such as promising start it was a bit deflating.  Aston’s time was only 4 minutes down on the leaders but leg 1 is always tightly bunched as many runners get a tow.

Joe Dickenson took over. He has been the form runner all week.  He told me later that he felt great on the tracks but slow in the terrain.  He looked strong and ran a solid leg.  He raised the team up five places and his time was 36.52 perhaps also a couple of minutes down on what he might have hoped for but even “the big unit” (Mike D’s nickname) must tire.  Meanwhile the Norwegians continued to surprise and  Finland 2 overtook Finland 1 who were down to 6th.  Alex Chaplin of GB had them in 4th in a tight pack with Russia 3rd and Finland 2. Finland 1 were 6th so Oli O had over two minutes to make up on Norway.  That would really round out his week and jwoc career.  Meanwhile Simeon B had a run he’d rather forget and dropped the second team to 45th.

Patrick took over from Joe and looked very determined.  There was a three minute gap ahead of him so he would have to run his own race although 3-4 countries were close behind.  At the spectator he looked very calm and his running form was good.  Unfortunately he came through the spectator just as the men’s race came to a close. Norway ran three great legs of under 30 minutes. Oli O did a great job to lift Finland to the silver with Russia third.  Sweden and Switzerland (Imark and Hadorn) had a thrilling run in battle for 5th and 6th and the Swede just held on. Patrick says he “wobbled a bit” on the second loop but came in nearly 90 seconds faster than Joe in 35.31 for 25th place.  He looked very strong on the run in and ran a pretty clean race. That made us 17th country – better than last year and with some good scalps behind us.  But NZ were well ahead of us thanks to great legs form Tommy Hayes and  Nick Smith.  Toby Wilson ran 42.03 to bring the second team up to 42nd.   

The girls race had just started when the men finished.  Again Norway started really well and led for the first two legs.  Tara and Rachel went off first. The idea was that Tara had the speed to hang with the packs but she told me later it was too hard. She had a mirror of Aston’s run coming in 30th in 40.24. the difference is that Aston was only 5 minutes down on the leaders to Tara’s 10 because the girls are more spread out. Rachel came back in 42nd place (just like jarrah) in 49.14. Zoe took over after a strong week and climbed to 26th with a time of 42.28. She looked strong but hit the finish control from an odd angle.  Not as bad as the Russian girl who ran from her finish control to the top of the shoot and then back to the last control etc.  She obviously enjoyed the sheering crowds. Winnie O pulled the girls second team up to 37th with 43.58.

Meanwhile Norway led from Sweden and Switzerland and again the script seemed to have been written as Simona A took over for the Swiss. Norway dropped their bundle two years ago on the last leg so history looked set to repeat.  Well not quite. Linnea Golsater of Sweden ran the fastest leg of the day by over 48s.  She was the only girl to break 30.  So even though Swiss Simona  did the third fastest leg, it wasn’t enough. Sweden ran over Norway as did the Swiss and that was the result Sweden, thanks to a great last leg, Switzerland and Norway.  Both individual triple gold winners got Silver today .  Finland 2 were 4th and Finland 1 were 5th.

Asha was having the best Aussie run of the day and of her week. She looked great in the finish and held on to 26th place in 39.47. She said after the race that it had been her best JWOC and she had her best results in almost every event. The women’s teams 26th meant they were also 17th country.  Caroline Piggerre finished off for the girls second team in a respectable 34th with 46.31.  I left before the coaches race finished but Ralph was looking confident.

So how did we go over the week?  Firstly the team were happy and got on very well. We didn’t quite have the stand out performance of last year (henry’s 6th, Matt’s long top 20 or Lanita’s 23rd in sprint) because the strength of this team was younger and less experienced. Aston, Asha and Patrick all improved on last year. Aston showed great potential in the Long and nearly the middle.  Asha had her best JWOC and Patrick was pretty pleased with how he ran most races and he will be able to prepare better when he isn’t doing a 60 hours a week job.  Joe Dickinson had a stand out carnival and looks to have really clicked with the sport. He is a big strong guy so this terrain suited him but he ran well technically also.  Zoe Dowling also had a good carnival and I was impressed with Caroline and Rachel in their first JWOC’s. They are young and will improve.  It was fun to be around this group and I think they will spur each other on to greater things next year.  

On my soap box:

The standard here is very high.  In the boys sprint, for example two minutes separated the top 80. Losing 30 seconds drops you  20 places! As spectators we were disappointed that Fin 5 had equal footing with JWOC. They also relied on the digital content but there was no wifi at assembly so you had to pay to get live results and sat tracking. We understand remotely it was great and you had different commentary. The arenas were passable at best and there was no big screen, no run through for the long  and often spectator controls were a long way from everything else.  Today the spectator control, run through and final control were in 3 corners of the field with impassable finish lanes etc in  between.  That was fairly typical of the week.  Technically the middle qual was not as complex as it should have been ( the last 5 controls of 14 were all path runs) and the Finish coach told me that the controller told the planner to make the courses easier as he was worried for the lesser nations.  If that is true, it’s a shame and pretty silly as the long is far more of a struggle for those countries. The sprint times also suggested more complexity was needed. If the times are that close then no one is making mistakes.

It was a huge undertaking for the Finns.  The fin 5 involves something like 40 courses. They are used to organising those and less used to organising JWOCs.  However, overall it was great that so many nations got on the podium and today proved that nothing in this sport is a foregone conclusion.  I think Hanny did a great job as manager and Ralph has been very popular so that helped bring the group together.

I hope this has helped but I know the coverage was pretty good so I’ll sign off. You’ll see in the pics that Patrick was already ready to party!

David Jaffe

Retired supporter

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