2013/07/6-14: World Orienteering Championships and Kainuu Orienteering Week
This was Louise’s seventh World Championships. It was the first time we’ve attended, however, and our first time participating in a large European orienteering event. It was good to get an insight into Louise’s experiences.
For a perspective on the the Canadian team’s experience, have a look (if you haven’t already) at the Team Canada Blog.
The Kainuu Orienteering Week runs as an annual event in orienteering-crazed Finland, but this year it was run in conjunction with the World Orienteering Championships as the “spectator race”, with over 5000 participants. Nearly all participants have assigned start times, and there were five start locations. It was interesting to watch these running like factories that discharged orienteers into the woods up to eight at a time, once per minute, for hours and hours.
We guess that over 90% of the KOW participants are Finns. At the first of our four events, it was a little tricky to know where to position oneself to best listen for a call-up time time announced only in Finnish, and one’s name read with an unfamiliar pronunciation. I knew my watch was not set accurately. My technique was to peer at other participants’ bibs, find someone with the same start time, remember the colour of their clothing, and glue myself to that person.
For our first two events, we trotted through open stands of Scotch pine with beautifully soft and springy ground cover. There was a symbol on the map that was new to me: a black circle. When I first came to one of these, I saw it was perfectly round pit, clearly man made many years ago. The Kainuu region is one that produced tar from pines during the 19th century, shipping it downriver to Oulu from where it was transported via the Baltic to the ship building nations of Europe and used as a waterproof caulking. The second two days were in denser spruce forest, more reminiscent of home terrain.
Chris and I are casual orienteers, happy to remain free of lofty orienteering ambitions. We both reached our goals of completing A courses in our age groups, and of not coming last in all the races. We found it odd that my D60A courses were only about half the length of Chris’s H60A courses. In Canada a women’s course is usually only about 25% shorter than the same-age-group men’s course. We wonder what this implies about sport culture across genders in Finland compared to Canada.
Yesterday was the last day of WOC. We did our final “spectator race” in the morning, then watched the relays in the afternoon while sitting sociably with some relaxed and friendly Canadians. The relays involve a mass start, and are the most spectator-friendly of all –a great finale!
We were lucky to share our dorm this week with three Finnish fellows: Pekka, Ossi and Jaako. All were serious master’s athletes and top contenders within their age classes, in addition to being lively flat-mates with great senses of humour. Early in the week, they came home singing “We are the champions!” after a Finnish man won the long-distance final, and poured us vodka and a Finnish liqueur made from sea buckthorn berries. On the Saturday, we rode with them to the final event, and Jaako sang us the Finnish national anthem as he drove! Thank you, lads!