JWOC Relay

The climax to the week of racing is always the relay. Teams of 3 compete for the ultimate team prize in junior orienteering. Norway came to the competition with hopes of defending their male and female titles from last year, but with a number of strong teams anything could happen. For this race the athletes were taken to a forest on the edge of Druskininkai, only a stone throw from the hotel where many of the teams were staying. With leg lengths of 6.5km and 10km and estimated leg times of 35 minutes for the girls and 45 minutes for the boys, the expectation was for the race to be one of the fastest in memory, and so it proved to be. Ingunn Weltzein of Norway proceeded to destroy everybody on the first leg of the girls relay, only to find that she had mispunched, disqualifying the Norwegian team. The honour of first back instead went to Kristina Rybakovaitë of Lithuania (although the team was later disqualified as well). Russia, Sweden and Denmark were close behind though, with Finland a little further back. Second leg spread the teams out a little, with Russia taking a lead that they would hold on to into the finish. There was a good battle for second with Denmark and Sweden less than a minute behind going out on last leg. Eva Svensson of Sweden managed to hold off Heini Wennman of Finland to take silver behind Mariya Shilova of Russia. Hanny Allston, Australian classic winner, got the fastest time of the day but her team finished down in 11th place. The British 2nd team almost managed to beat the 1st team, who finished as 16th nation. The mens had even more drama with the lead changing on every leg. Oleksandr Starov of Ukraine stormed round to win the first leg just in front of Adam Chromy of Czech Republic. The Czech team put in a good challenge on second leg, with middle distance champion Jan Benes running away from the chasing pack of Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. However, the third Czech runner was unable to stay in the lead and was passed by Markus Puusepp of Estonia, Mikael Kristensson of Sweden and Olav Lundanes of Norway. In the latter stages of the race, it was the Estonian who proved to be the strongest to give Estonia a welcome, if unexpected, gold medal. Kristensson managed to hold off Lundanes for silver. Great Britain finished as 9th nation. Results can be found here