The 35th World Orienteering Championships (WOC) will be held in Riga and Sigulda, Latvia starting on Saturday. 345 athletes from 49 nations are entered for the competitions – three individual plus Relay and Sprint Relay.
33-year-old Edgars Bertuks, who lives in Riga, is the one Latvian to have won WOC medals in the past – gold in Middle Distance in 2012 plus two bronze medals at Long Distance. He is a member of this year’s Latvian team, but has had to recover from a nasty heel injury suffered in June that has required surgery. He and the rest of the Latvian team will for sure get every possible bit of support from the local public.
Favourites for women’s medals include Tove Alexandersson, Sweden in forest races and Maja Alm, Denmark in Sprint, although both are fast and strong runners capable of wins in all formats. There will be strong challenges from Natalia Gemperle (Russia), Marika Teini (Finland) and Judith Wyder (Switzerland) among many others.
In the men’s races, Swiss Matthias Kyburz has already shown his determination to add to his already impressive medal tally, having won two of the three first-round World Cup races on home ground in May. His compatriot Daniel Hubmann has also showed good form, and the Swiss team as a whole looks strong. Norwegian Olav Lundanes, who is second in the all-time men’s medals table (behind Frenchman Thierry Gueorgiou, now retired) with 24 medals, 7 of them gold and 4 of those in Long Distance including the last two WOCs, is a good bet for yet another win. Magne Dæhli is another strong hope for Norway, but there are many other strong contenders for medals this year.
The three Sprint races in this year’s Nokian Tyres World Orienteering Championships, the first ever WOC to be held in Latvia, will take place in various parts of Riga. The Sprint Final will be in the Old Town of Riga, a UNESCO heritage site, and the Sprint Relay in an urban area bordering the River Daugava. The forest races are in terrain quite close to the main Event Centre Sigulda, a popular holiday town. Here some strong physical as well as technical challenges can be expected – as in Estonia last year. River valleys with side valleys have mainly coniferous forest on the higher slopes and more deciduous trees in the valleys; there are many steep slopes and a lot of ‘green’ forest, in areas where there is little forest management and so a lot of fallen trees and branches. This kind of terrain makes navigation a lot harder, of course.
The 49 nations include 1 athlete from each of Argentina, Macedonia, Netherlands, N. Korea, Serbia and Slovenia.
Full details of the competitions are on www.woc2018.lv, which will carry a full online results service and many other exciting features. LIVE Orienteering will carry pictures and commentary – separate details will be published about how to follow the event live.
Saturday 4 August Sprint Qualification and Final, Riga
Sunday 5 August Sprint Relay, Riga
Tuesday 7 August Middle Distance, Sigulda
Thursday 9 August Relay, Sigulda
Saturday 11 August Long Distance, Sigulda