There was an interesting point in the Council meeting minutes #207 related to the discussion of the successfully organised WOC in Czechia:
This looks somewhat cryptic. Medalists running together did not disturb the Council on previous occasions. For example in 2017 the Council did not even blink when the Swedish trailer stayed for 70 minutes behind the World Champion to finish with a bronze medal (and pushing Magne out of medal position on that occasion). Sadly, that was far from being the only occasion for a medalist running together with the winner for a considerable length of the course.
This requirement for a “follow-up discussion” also looks strange, because if the Council considers it a “fact” that these athletes were “running together” – in the sense of following or cooperation – then at least 2 of the 3 broke the rules and might be subject to disqualification:
Of course, the wording of the rule is “may” that allows for some flexibility for the organisers so that they can consider special circumstances.
Is the “follow-up discussion” required by the Council aims at trying to find an argument to justify that these athletes were not disqualified?
That should not be a problem: the silver medalist is a World and European Champion who is above suspicion of breaking the Rules, and the bronze medalist is a super fast learner by his own admission.
A Champion above suspicion
The WOC Middle competition proved to everybody who had any doubt what a great runner and navigator Matthias was. Congratulations on his excellent run on that occasion!
Of course, it shall not be considered that he broke Rule 1.2 on WOC Long. After the unfortunate coincidence of winning the European Championships when his brother was the course setter, many commentators asserted strongly that he is such a great athlete that there should be no doubt that he achieves his results without breaking rules.
Probably we shall view his performance on WOC Long as a testament of his ability of super concentration. Imagine: running as a fresh World Champion after 25 minutes you meet the 9 years younger kid in the forest who started 3 minutes behind you. What’s more, that disrespectful kid keeps zig-zagging in front of you for 70 minutes and punches on 22 controls (out of 24 remaining) only 1 to 7 seconds before you. This might have been a distraction to lesser orienteers, but Matthias managed to tune out the kid in front of him, focus on his independent navigation and improve his position from 12th on Control 4 (before they met) to a well deserved 2nd in the Finish.
Additional evidence supporting his independent performance is how happy he was winning his first Long distance medal. Although the speaker of the web-TV broadcast suggested that he might not be very proud of this medal (implying that maybe he got some help running behind the World Champion for 70 minutes), Matthias has proven him wrong. Could a world class runner be so happy about a result he achieved by breaking the Rules?
A super fast learner
There should not be any question about the independent navigation of Magne either, even if he was talking about getting an impromptu education in Long distance orienteering on the website of the Norwegian Federation
(I and (Matthias) Kyburz got simply a lesson in long distance orienteering said Magne Dæhli)
There should be no doubt that he applied his fresh learnings independently in his own race. In fact, he was proven to be such a fast learner that he improved his position from 40th (on control 4) to 3rd in the Finish.
If only the course would have been somewhat longer, with this rate of improvement he could have taken silver or even gold! (and teach Kasper a lesson about students surpassing their masters)
A performance like this should be shown as exemplary by the IOF to all young orienteers: there is always something to learn and when you learn you become better and better in no time.
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Let’s hope that this helps the Council to settle the required follow-up discussions. Alternatively, we may have to start to think about which are the rules that apply to elite orienteers and which are the ones that shall be disregarded.