The Nokian Tyres World Orienteering Championships are back in action today with the first competitions among the forest formats, the Middle Distance. The Middle Distance medals will be decided with first a qualification race this morning, where the 45 best competitors go directly to the final race which will be contested in the evening. They will be joined by one athlete from each nation that did not directly qualify an athlete. It is a challenging day for the athletes with 2 races in the same day and the mountainous terrain around the arena Smržovka in the Liberec Region of the Czech Republic added to that challenge.
The qualification terrain was physically demanding with steep slopes covered with granite boulders and cliffs and areas of broken ground and thicker forest. However, there were also some very nice areas of open beech forest. The navigation challenges were made up of negotiating the rocky slopes correctly with the varying levels of visibility and runnability and in maintaining focus in balance with the physical demands.
That the courses were tough could be noticed in the qualifying times. The course setters had expected 25 minutes as the winning time of the respective heats, yet none of the times were close to that, varying from 28 to just over 30 minutes. As with the Sprint qualifications races earlier in the week all of the favourites for winning the medals this afternoon went through to the finals, most with ease. It will be interesting to see if there were any tactical dispositions in saving something for the final.
Among the men, heat winners were Kasper Harlem Fosser (NOR), Matthias Kyburz (SUI) and Lucas Basset (FRA). Reigning World Champion at the middle distance from 2019, Olav Lundanes (NOR) finished 3rd in the Heat C and will certainly be in contention in the final. Runners from 21 different nations qualified among the top 45. The host nation Czech Republic had all their 3 athletes qualify for the final along with all runners from Austria, Finland, France, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland plus the neutral athletes from Russia. One notable qualification was Ahmet Kacmaz (TUR) who gained a direct place in the final with 15th place in the mens A heat by a mere 3 seconds. In total 58 men will compete for the medals this afternoon.
In the womens races, heat winners were Sabine Hauswirth (SUI), reigning Middle Distance World Champion from 2019 Tove Alexandersson (SWE) and Marie Olaussen (NOR). 19 different nations will have runners qualified directly to the final of the womens competition. Again the Czech athletes all advanced and all athletes from Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland plus the neutral athletes from Russia also made the final. Among the women 56 athletes in total will compete this evening.
The first start in the Nokian Tyres World Orienteering Championships Middle Distance Final is at 15:50 CEST with live broadcasting to begin at 16:20 CEST and finishing at 20:15 CEST. The final competition can be followed via the IOF Live page.