2021 World Cup: big success for Sweden

With the final race now run, Sweden is top country in terms of numbers of runners in the top 20 in the 2021 World Cup standings, with 7 men and 7 women. Switzerland takes second place with 6 men and 5 women.

Both countries have had a very successful season and shown great strength in depth, with a big gap to the third country, Norway, which has 4 men and 2 women in the top 20 placings. Sweden also came top of the list in the Team World Cup, where Switzerland is again second and Norway third. Here, each of the three countries won one of the season’s Sprint Relays (two in the Team World Cup, plus the World Championships race).

Sweden also has the best woman athlete in 29-year-old Tove Alexandersson, who won 4 of the 6 individual counting races, being beaten only in the second round when she was a bit out of form after catching Covid. She has now won 38 World Cup races in her glittering career! Her closest challenger, and only a little below the same standard, has been Switzerland’s Simona Aebersold, still only 23. She won one race, came second 4 times and third once. In the final race the speed of the two through the forest was very close, and it was only in the final stages that Alexandersson got ahead.

Tove Alexandersson in familiar pose – after winning the Middle Distance in Italy

Photos: William Hollowell

A fast-rising star this year has been Sweden’s Hanne Lundberg, still a junior. She has shown herself capable of competing with the best, winning one of the races in the round on home soil. In fourth place in the women’s list is another still-improving athlete, 26-year-old Andrine Benjaminsen from Norway, who finished second once, and third twice. Elena Roos, Switzerland also achieved a second place in one race, but missed the final round through injury.

The outstanding male athlete of 2021 is undoubtedly Kasper Harlem Fosser, Norway. His stated aim is “to be the best orienteer in the world”, and this season he has shown his capabilities in all formats – Sprint, Middle, Long and Relay. Still only 22 and in his first full season as a senior, he is the latest in a long line of extremely strong and technically proficient Norwegian athletes who between them have won many gold medals over the years. He has won 3 of this year’s 6 World Cup races and come third twice.

Kasper Harlem Fosser – best orienteer in 2021

Matthias Kyburz and Daniel Hubmann from Switzerland are in second and third places in the standings. Both have had fantastic success in the World Cup over recent years. Hubmann, now 38, says: “I have just completed my 17th World Cup season – for the 15th time on the podium of the overall Ranking. Proud I managed to keep such a level over many years and hope it’s not over yet!” Fourth in the list is yet another Swiss athlete, Joey Hadorn, who won one race and was second in another, but has still to achieve real consistency in his performance. The other race winner, Emil Svensk (Sweden), finished fifth in the rankings.

This year has seen a full programme of events, but largely without spectators and also without athletes living in Australia and New Zealand amongst other countries, and apart from the final round Great Britain, because of Covid restrictions on international travel. Let’s hope that 2022 will see a return to full competition with all eligible athletes able to take part, and of course also packed arenas.

Cover photo: Simona Aebersold, Tove Alexandersson, Andrine Benjaminsen – Middle Distance top three in Italy.

World Cup top 20 – numbers of athletes per nation

Men: Sweden 7, Switzerland 6, Norway 4, Austria, Belgium and Denmark 1 each

Women: Sweden 7, Switzerland 5, Czech Republic, Finland and Norway 2, Great Britain and Russia 1