Sprint Gold for Maja Alm and Jonas Leandersson
Sprint Final Report
Maja Alm of Denmark picked up her second gold medal in two days with an emphatic win in the Sprint Final. Ukraine's Nadiya Volynska took silver and Galina Vinogradova of Russia bronze.
In the men's race, Jonas Leandersson of Sweden won the gold medal, with Martin Hubmann of Switzerland in second place and Leandersson's Swedish teammate Jerker Lysell taking the bronze.
Several athletes remarked that they found the courses today more technical than those for Friday's Qualification races, and they certainly offered a lot of route choice decisions as well as the potential for some big errors among the narrow alleyways of the old town of Forres. A final loop in the parkland around the arena required the athletes to keep their head while running all out in full view of the crowd.
Alm dominates the Women's race
There was a shock shortly before the start of the women’s race when it was announced that two of the favourites for the title – the reigning champion Judith Wyder of Switzerland and last year’s silver medallist Tove Alexandersson of Sweden – would not be running due to injury.
Wyder withdrew suffering from a back injury that had hampered her in the Sprint Relay yesterday. Alexandersson had picked up a foot injury at the O-Ringen last month, and despite having run strongly in her Qualification heat on Friday she decided that she did not feel able to run again today.
There no clear indication yet of whether either athlete will be able to race again this week. Tomorrow is a rest day, which will hopefully give them additional time to recover, and while Alexandersson was originally intending to run in Tuesday's Middle, Wyder is not due to race again until the Relay on Wednesday.
Their withdrawal left Alm as the clear favourite after her outstanding run on the last lap of yesterday's Sprint Relay, and she put in another dominant performance, with the fastest split time to 16 of the 22 controls, to win her second World Championship gold medal the day after her first. Her large victory margin of 40 seconds was won through sheer orienteering speed, and while there were no big decisive route choices, she got many of the small decisions right.
A interesting example of this was between controls 9 and 10: of the seven fastest runners overall, Alm was the only one to take the southern route. Although this was slightly longer, it meant she didn't need to concentrate on locating the entrance to the correct alleyway, and she had marginally the fastest time for the leg.
Alm was clearly delighted after her race:
A second gold medal in two days is crazy and unreal! I was feeling good physically and the map and course were what I was expecting. Hopefully we can continue Danish success for the rest of the week.
Volynska's second place was also fairly comfortable, and she had the second fastest cumulative time from control 3 onwards, becoming the first woman to win a World Championship medal representing Ukraine.
The race for bronze, however, was much more open, with Sara Lüscher, Hanny Allston, Minna Kauppi and Rahel Friederich all in the mix as well as Vinogradova, and only 2.6 seconds separating third from sixth at the finish.
Three controls from the end, Vinogradova had only the seventh fastest cumulative time, but she was able to produce a burst of speed through the last few hundred metres – similar to the one she brought out at the end of the Sprint Relay – to secure her second bronze medal in two days.
Leandersson victorious in a closely-fought battle for gold
While Alm's winning time in the women's race was 40 seconds faster than the next fastest athlete, in the men's race only 14 seconds separated first from tenth.
Leandersson was the winner, but his race got off to a relatively slow start, losing five seconds to the leading time of Yannick Michiels by taking the slower northern route between controls 2 and 3.
That, however, was Leandersson's biggest mistake, and his combination of speed and consistency paid off, as he moved into the lead at the spectator run through and held onto it to win an individual World Championship gold to go with his two European Sprint titles.
A similar combination of fast orienteering without any major errors paid off for both Martin Hubmann, who finished 1.9 seconds slower than Leandersson to secure silver, and for Jerker Lysell, who finished with the third fastest time to take bronze.
At one point it looked as if both Hubmann brothers might end up with medals, but Daniel lost around ten seconds with a poor choice of route to control 8 and wasn't able to make up enough time around the rest of the course, eventually finishing sixth.
Yannick Michiels had been widely tipped before the race to become the first Belgian to win a World Championship medal, and seemed on course to achieve this when he recorded the fastest time through the first part of the course. However, a navigational error when he ran down a dead-end alley coming out of control 13 cost him around 12 seconds, and shortly after this he lost a few more precious seconds when tripped and fell when jumping over a fence. He eventually finished in fifth place, less than eight seconds off the gold medal.
Andreu Blanes Reig, 2011 Junior World Sprint Championship silver medallist, ran strongly through the last few controls to finish in seventh place, confortably the best ever individual World Championship result by a Spanish athlete.
This was the first World Championship medal for Leandersson, Martin Hubmann and Lysell, and they were all clearly delighted with the result. Leandersson admitted that he had had a nervous wait for other athletes to finish before he was confirmed as the champion:
I had quite a good race with only a few small mistakes, and I tried to stay calm and take one control at a time. I felt tired at the end because of racing for the third day in a row, and I thought it would be tough for me to win a medal today. The wait to find out whether I'd won gold was very difficult!
The athletes now have a rest day on Monday, before the World Championships moves on to the forest of Darnaway for the Middle race on Tuesday and the relay on Wednesday.
|Maja Møller Alm||Denmark||13:32.5|