Revisiting JWOC 2013 – Hradec Králové

4. 6. 2024

There is a large fountain in front of the Hotel Černigov in Hradec Králové, and many today’s first class orienteers will vaguely remember taking a late night dip in it some time in summer 2013 during the second JWOC that was taking place in the Czech Republic. The hotel hosted most of the teams, and the international bubbly atmosphere was palpable, wild even. This, along with many technical novelties made the JWOC a truly memorable event.

The Hradec Králové area itself is rather flat, so the organizers had to search for suitable terrain north of the city, near the Polish border, where deep valleys and steep inclines are abundant. Sandstones, and omnipresent World War II fortifications provided a dramatic backdrop to the long and middle distance races. One of the main motives of the championships was to offer terrains which would vary strongly between the stages. This was achieved by placing the sprint race directly into the city and by running the relays in a nearby flat area which provided a confusing matrix of paths and vegetation. Overall, the variety of the terrain required a great deal of flexibility from the competitors, something the local team used to their advantage at the very end.

On 1st July, the long distance race was held in Odolov. The routes used the potential of the terrain to its maximum. The competitors were constantly put before the decision whether to cross the haphazardly located valleys or use the paths network that circumnavigates them. Finding out which alternative is more suitable for the task at hand was crucial, as it should be in the long distance race. Results men: 1 – Piotr Parfianowicz (POL), 2 – Florian Schneider (SUI), 3 – Andrei Kozyrew (RUS), women: 1 – Lisa Risby (SWE), 2 – Sara Hagström (SWE), 3 – Ekatarina Sawkina (RUS).

On 3rd July, the map for the middle distance had a lot of black dots in it – rocks and stones everywhere. A great feel for details as well as strong ankles and exceptional foot nimbleness were in order. The controls were spread out over a steep slope where scree fields alternated with larger boulder areas and confusion was not a rare condition. It was rather precision than speed what decided the race. The day brought a Scandinavian sweep with the Swedes taking four medals. Results men: 1 – Emil Svensk (SWE), 2 – Anton Johansson (SWE), 3 – Jens Wängdahl (SWE), women: 1 – Miri Thrane Ødum (DEN), 2 – Lisa Risby (SWE), 3 – Mathilde Rundhaug (NOR).

The sprint race was held in Hradec Králové itself on 5th July. The sprint was still relatively young and compared to today’s standards the routes were maybe not showing the level of technical complexity typical to the races held now. Still, there were several puzzles in the inner city terraces and staircases, and longer alternative routings. A highly attractive race brought the first medal for the home team with Michal Hubáček taking the silver; A promising result before the last day of the races. Results men: 1 – Florian Schneider (SUI), 2 – Michal Hubáček (CZE), 3 – Tim Robertson, women: 1 – Heidi Mårtensson (NOR), 2 – Nicoline Friberg Klysner (DEN), 3 – Anastasia Denissova (BLR).

6th July was the day of the relays and what a day it was for the home team. The terrain was rather flat, considerably overgrown with dense vegetation and the Czechs proved to be the best when it came to deciding which thicket to ram through and which to rather avoid. A full live TV coverage (first in historz for JWOCs) was an ambitious and successful project that raised not only the public awareness of the sport but also brought double Czech victory to numerous viewers. Results men: 1 – Czech Republic (Schuster, Chloupek, Hubáček), 2 – Sweden (Johansson, Wängdahl, Svensk), 3 – Russia (Kutschmenko, Poljakov, Kozyrev), women: 1 – Czech Republic (Knapová, Chromá, Horčičková), 2 – Finland (Haataja, Haikonen, Hulkkonen), 3 – Sweden (Svensson, Forsgren, Johansson).

The JWOC 2013 again gave rise to many stars. Since it all feels just like yesterday, many of them are, or were until recently, still active in high-level orienteering. Vendula Horčičková is a long time Czech national team member. Lisa Risby won gold with the Swedish relay team at World Championships in Czechia in 2021, Sara Hagström has several gold medals from World Championships and so does Emil Svensk, the Swedish orienteering star.

JWOC 2024 will surely let some of the young athletes rise to stardom. One month to go and we will know who they are.

Photo: Petr Kadeřávek, Michael Vambera