Sprint Relay is over. No surprises, all podium positions were taken by the favourites of the race. First place goes to Switzerland, second to Sweden and third to the Czech Republic.
The race took place in a beautiful surroundings of an observation tower Petřín - hilly forest park with a lot of paths and bushes. Courses planned by Jan Mrázek were physically demanding and technically difficult.
Long leg to the very first control did not split the runners as expected, only Alva Olsson (SWE 2) chose the left, a little bit slower, alternative. However, the control number 9 was quite decisive and split the runners into three groups. Really strong performance brought Lina Strand (SWE 1) to the finish first, 25 seconds ahead of Sabine Hauswirth (SUI 1) and Ursula Kadan (AUT 1).
On the second leg Emil Svensk (SWE 1) added 6 more seconds to the lead of Sweden, Andreas Kyburz (SUI 1) came second, 31 seconds behind and another half minute back was Thomas Curiger (SUI 2) followed by Oystein Kvaal Osterbo (NOR 1), Artem Popov (RUS 1) who lost second place on the way to the 9th control and Christoph Meier (SUI 3).
The victory of Sweden seemed to be clear, however it is orienteering and everything can change quickly. On the 3rd leg Florian Howald (SUI 1) was pushing really hard and got closer to Jonas Leandersson (SWE 1) and after the mistake of Jonas on the 7th control took the lead and came first to the finish, 11 seconds ahead of Jonas. A group of four relays SUI 3, CZE 1, NOR 1 and SUI 2 appeared in the finish 50 seconds behind the leader.
On the last leg a fight for the victory started, however decisive was Tove Alexandersson’s big mistake to the 2nd control and Judith Wyder (SUI 1) came after the fast and controlled race for the first place. Even though Tove was catched up by the CZE 1, SUI 2 and SUI 3, she had the speed to decide the silver medal for Sweden, 44 seconds behind Switzerland. Only 3 second difference was between 3rd and 5th place in the finish - Martina Ruch (SUI 2), Sarina Jenzer (SUI 3) and Tereza Janošíková (CZE 1), however the bronze medal goes to the Czech Republic thanks to the reduced order that is used for the World Cup.
After two races “medals” are still in the hands of the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland only. Maybe tomorrow’s middle distance in sandstones near Valdštejn castle will change it. Stay focused, we start at 11:30.
And what did some runners tell us about the race in the finish?
Lina Strand (SWE):
Congratulations to the first woman in the finish! How was your race?
I got a good start with a good road choice, but to the next control I followed the other forking so I made a mistake for 5 seconds and many teams caught me but I was able to get into it again and take the lead. Then we were a group of Russia and Switzerland there, but then Russia disappeared, so I pushed hard there and got a gap directly. I felt really strong even if I did some small mistakes just like small hesitations, but I just felt good in my body so it was really nice to have quite a big gap.
Did you feel any tension? I suppose the whole team was expecting a great performance from you.
We are all experienced runners and I have run first leg many many times, so I am comfortable with it, but still a bit nervous – it is a relay. I really wanted to do a good race, I was disappointed yesterday because I didn’t get to the final. This was a great way to show that we can do that. I really trust in my team and I think we will make it. It was nice, I am very happy.
Do you think your team is going to win?
It’s looking good now, we won the sprint relay last year and other team won it this year at World Champs, so Great chance!
Florian Howald (SUI):
How did you like the race?
It was really fun with the steep slopes, flat parts with the walls, it was really interesting. Pretty changing and not usual sprint relay.
What was your strategy?
To take safe roads and not risky roads, plan the road well because there can always be some tricks.
To the 13th control you have chosen the upper option, why?
I saw two options - going up and then flat to the control and going down to the left – I thought that going left and down is a bit longer so I chose the first one.
Did you make any mistake?
Do you think that your team can win?
I am pretty sure, Judith is very strong now so I trust in her and I know she will fight. But of course, she has to do a good job, we will see.
What expectation do you have for tomorrow?
I am thrilled about tomorrows race. I have been once in the sandstones, almost 10 years ago. I’m really looking forward to that race.
Judith Wyder (SUI)
How did you enjoy the race?
It was really interesting sprint relay. I think it makes it really complicated if it is a bit in the forest and then on the paths you have to really be sure about the road choices. It was a really nice round.
Did you feel any tension knowing that you are in the lead?
Of course, I wanted to bring it home when my teammates dit it so well - in the end it’s a team work and everybody tries to go as good as possible and I tried it today as well. And I am happy I could fulfil the good work they started.
From the GPS tracking it seems like it was a clear race from you, did you make any mistake?
I did two big mistakes actually, so I thought they will maybe come closer, but I stopped at the right moment and did my job. Then I tried to push as hard as I could, so at the end it was ok.
Where exactly were the mistakes?
9th and also 11th control, these two weren’t clear at all. To the 9th I was planning to go up through the upper gate, but then I started to read from the control loop, so I came up reading to this wall and I started to think I have to go all the way back, so I went down again on the path and then I had to crawl up again, so it was quite a big mistake. Also on 11th control I was on this path almost at the rail way but I realized it really fast, so I think I have lost there 5-10 seconds but I really had to stop.
How did you feel physically?
Physically it was ok, it was the same as Tove, but I think it’s more mental, yesterday it was really long day and then I got some stomach problems today, so it was quite exhausting but it was nice and it’s good to have this overall world cup win for the team.
Are you looking forward to tomorrow?
First some recovery and then the forest. It’s gonna be interesting with all these stones and slopes.
Do you prefer sprint or forest disciplines?
I haven’t been running middle for a long time, I was just running long on the WOC and no forest at European Champs. So it’s gonna be interesting. I really like them both and I like to perform well in both, I love to compete in forest also here in the Czech Republic.