Simone Niggli, Switzerland and Tove Alexandersson, Sweden are two legendary names in World Cup history. Niggli dominated the World Cup results between 2002 and 2013, achieving top spot overall 9 times; Alexandersson has won every year in the period 2014-19. Eleven women in all have held first place at the end of the year’s competition, yet they come from only three countries – Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Niggli – “biggest star ever”
Acclaimed by worldofo.com as “the biggest star in the sport of orienteering, ever”, Simone Niggli ‘s first World Cup wins were in 2000 – one in Canberra, Australia followed by two in Finland. In that year she was second overall to Norway’s Hanne Staff, then from 2002 there came six top-placings in a row. She missed the 2008 season to have her first child, and then again in 2011 when she gave birth to twins. She retired from the national team at the age of 35 at the end of the 2013 season, finishing in style – she won all of the last 7 World Cup races that year.
In all, Simone Niggli has enjoyed first place in a World Cup race 68 times, second place 9 times and third 4!
Alexandersson dominance from 2014
Tove Alexandersson won her first World Cup race, in 2011 in Switzerland, as a 19-year-old. Two years later, in Simone Niggli’s last year of competition, she was up to second place overall with two race victories and clearly destined to be the new top star of women’s orienteering. Since then she has held top position every year, with 2019 being the best-ever so far when she won all 7 races. 33 first, 13 second and 9 third places make up her World Cup race record at the present time – with more to come, for sure.
The pre-Niggli years
From 1986 to 2000 – 8 editions – only one female athlete won the World Cup overall twice. The Norwegian Hanne Staff enjoyed a very successful career, winning in 1998 and 2000 and third-placed in 1994, 1996 and 2002. Ragnhild Bratberg (Norway), Yvette Hague (Great Britain) and Marlena Jansson (Sweden) all appear twice in the top-three list in this period. Along with Yvette Hague, the best non-Scandinavian athlete in this period was Jana Cieslarova (Czechoslovakia) who was second in 1992.
In the shadow of Niggli and Alexandersson
The domination of the women’s World Cup by Simone Niggli and Tove Alexandersson, that has existed in women’s orienteering since 2002, has been broken only in the two seasons missed by Niggli: by Anne Margrethe Hausken, Norway in 2008 and Helena Jansson, Sweden in 2011.
Minna Kauppi, Finland won 9 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze medals at World Championships between 2004 and 2013, but never achieved overall victory in the World Cup; she was second 3 times and third twice. In 2011 she finished only 20 points behind Helena Jansson in a close-fought contest where Lena Eliasson, Sweden finished with just 2 points fewer than Kauppi. Jansson also figured prominently in this period: third twice and second once in consecutive years ahead of her win in 2011.
More recently, Judith Wyder, Switzerland has finished second behind Tove Alexandersson twice, winning 4 races in both 2014 and 2016, and the Russian Natalia Gemperle has finished in the top three in each of the last three editions.
World Cup winners, women
1986 Ellen Sofie Olsvik, Norway
1988 Ragnhild Bratberg, Norway
1990 Ragnhild Bente Andersen, Norway
1992 Marita Skogum, Sweden
1994 Marlena Jansson, Sweden
1996 Gunilla Svärd, Sweden
1998, 2000 Hanne Staff, Norway
2002-2007 Simone Niggli, Switzerland
2008 Anne Margrethe Hausken, Norway
2009, 2010 Simone Niggli
2011 Helena Jansson, Sweden
2012, 2013 Simone Niggli
2014-2019 Tove Alexandersson, Sweden
Text by Clive Allen