World Cup Relay and Team competitions: 5 distinct phases

The Individual competition has always been foremost in the World Cup, but Relays and Team competitions have also been included – although not in all years. There have been 5 distinct phases:

  1. Individual World Cup competition only from 1986 to 1992 (the first 4 editions)
  2. Separate Men’s and Women’s Relay competitions, 1994 to 2006 (8 editions)
  3. Again Individual World Cup competition only from 2007 to 2014 (8 editions)
  4. Official Sprint Relay World Cup in 2015 and 2016
  5. Team World Cup 2017 to 2019 (3 editions so far), including both Sprint and standard Relay events

Men’s and Women’s Relays, 1994 – 2006
The outstanding statistic here is the performances of Norway’s women, who won the first five of the eight seasons of competition. The first year, 1994, they achieved overall victory without actually winning a race, helped by the decision to have only the best 2 of the 3 races counting for total points. It was best 2 from 3 also in 1996 and 2004, and in 2002 it was best 3 from 4; in the other four years, all the results counted.

A women’s team has achieved a clean sweep of wins just twice: Sweden in 2004 and Finland in 2006. Only four nations achieved top-three placings in the overall results covering the whole period – Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The Czech Republic women’s team won one race in 1994.

In the men’s competitions, the same four nations are dominant, but are joined by Denmark and France; both nations won overall once, Denmark in 1998 and France in 2005. Additionally, single race wins went to Russia (three times) and the Czech Republic. Most successful nation in terms of overall victories in this period was Sweden, winning in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2006. No nation managed to win all the men’s races in a single year.

The period 2007 to 2014
In 2007 a new-style World Cup was introduced with higher standards and innovations such as prize money. The annual programme consisted of individual events only. Relay races continued in world and regional championship programmes, but season-long relay series were dropped.

This remained the case until it became clear that a seasonal series of races in the new Sprint Relay format would benefit Orienteering publicity-wise. In 2014 an unofficial Sprint Relay World Cup took place with 4 races (in addition to 14 individual races – it was a busy year for the elite!) and was won by Denmark, with Sweden and Switzerland sharing second place.

The Sprint Relay World Cup
This existed as a separate entity for just two years, 2015 and 2016.

In 2015 there were 3 races – in Norway, Great Britain and Switzerland. All counted for the overall result. As in 2014, Denmark emerged as the overall winners, followed by Switzerland and Sweden; each of these three nations won one of the races.

The 2016 version had 4 races: the World and European Championships (Sweden and the Czech Republic) plus 2 others in the World Cup programme (Poland and Switzerland). Switzerland won the two World Cup races and the overall title. Denmark triumphed for the third year running in the World Championships and Russia won the Sprint Relay at the European Championships. In the overall table, Denmark finished second and Sweden third.

2017 – the Team World Cup introduced
IOF decision-makers changed the name of the relay series and expanded the programme in 2017. This time, both sprint and standard relays were included, and seven races were chosen (3 sprint relays plus 2 men’s and 2 women’s relays) with the best 6 results to count. This was an excellent year for Sweden; 5 victories meant overall success by a big points margin over second-placed Switzerland. Norway took third place.

In 2018 an additional men’s and women’s relay was added, making 9 races in all in 6 different competitions, and this time all races counted. Switzerland athletes raised their game to take 4 victories and become overall winners, with Sweden (2 wins) second and Norway (3 wins) third.

A much reduced team competition was held in 2019, the first year of the new-style World Championships, comprising just the men’s and women’s World Championship Relays and two Sprint Relays – in Finland and China. Sweden won 3 of the 4 races and finished with a healthy lead over Switzerland, with Finland third.

No nation supreme
In the 1994 – 2006 period, Norway won six series and Sweden five, whilst in the period 2014 – 2019 Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland have each won twice. The one period of supremacy was the Norwegian women winning five times in succession from 1994 to 2002.

Relay and Team winners, 1994 to present

1994                    Women – Norway                     Men – Norway

1996                    Women – Norway                     Men – Sweden

1998                    Women – Norway                     Men – Denmark

2000                    Women – Norway                     Men – Sweden

2002                    Women – Norway                     Men – Finland

2004                    Women – Sweden                     Men – Sweden

2005                    Women – Switzerland              Men – France

2006                    Women – Finland                       Men – Sweden


2015                    Denmark

2016                    Switzerland

2017                    Sweden

2018                    Switzerland

2019                    Sweden