South African first at World Orienteering Championship
The sport of orienteering in South Africa is small in numbers but big in enthusiasm and participation.
This is a highly competitive international sport of map and
compass navigation where fast running and rapid route decisions separate runners
by split seconds. The World Orienteering Championships (WOC) are held annually
and this year three South Africans flew to Switzerland to
WOC opened last Saturday, 14 July 2012, with the Sprint
distance qualifications. Sprint courses are no more than four-kilometres in
length, which makes the pace very fast. Run on the Lausanne Polytechnic Campus,
which lies on the northern bank of Lake Geneva, the terrain was runnable and
similar in technical difficulty to courses held locally on large campuses like
Wits University and UJ. This course was perfectly suited to 21-year old Michael
Crone, a medical student at Wits Medical School.
With an easy
start in his heat, Crone quickly settled into a smooth tempo, which he
maintained throughout the course. He completed the course, correctly locating
the 16 controls, in 13:56. Although 35 seconds behind the winner of his heat,
Frederic Tranchand (France), it was a good enough run to place him in 11th
position. As the top 15 from each heat go through to the A-Final, Crone would
run again later in the day in the Final. This was the first time that a South
African has qualified for a Sprint A-Final.
qualification time set him as the 15th starter in the 45-man Sprint A-Final that
afternoon. A tough start saw Crone losing seconds early on. Two additional
mistakes in the later sections saw him drop down the
"Running in the Sprint A-Final was a good experience
for me,” Crone says. “My goal was qualification into the Final but I didn't
really have a plan for it once I got there".
Crone completed the
Final in 43rd place with a time of 18:41, about three-minutes behind the winner,
Matthias Kyburz of Switzerland.
Crone is a relative newcomer to orienteering, a sport he began in 2009. This was his second WOC competition. Last year, in Aix-Les-Bains (France), Crone placed 25th in the sprint qualification race, over four minutes off the final qualification place. His improvement in the last year caught many off guard and his qualification into the final this year surprised the international orienteering community.
"I made the final even though I had about 25 seconds of mistakes so I know I can qualify again,” says Crone. A comparison of his split times from the Final to those of runners ahead indicates that a top 30 placing is well within his reach by reducing the number of small navigational errors made throughout the run.
Jeremy Green also took part in the Sprint qualifications. He placed 25th in his
heat, missing entry to the Final but notching his best WOC placement. Discussing
Crone’s performance Green says, “We always knew he'd make it into the Sprint
Final. We just expected it to be next year and not this year! We thought he
needed just a little more experience to break through... We're thrilled to have
Crone and Green, together with Nicholas Mulder, ran
in the Middle Distance qualifications. Crone and Mulder made it into in the B-
and C-Finals respectively. Green and Mulder also ran in the Long Distance
qualifications with Mulder reaching the Long Distance A-Final, where he placed
WOC wraps up Saturday, 21 July 2012 with the men’s and
women’s relay. A sport most popular in the Scandinavian countries, events
welcome thousands of participants and WOC is broadcast live on television in
Switzerland and Norway with live streaming on the
Orienteering is governed by the International Orienteering Federation and it is recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Orienteering will form part of the World Games, which will next be held in Cali, Colombia in 2013. Rugby Sevens and Netball are other sports that will feature in Cali, although Rugby Sevens will feature in the 2016 Olympic Games.