World Cups in Czech Republic – episode 6 (2016, 2018)

30. 7. 2023

On Wednesday, the Czech Republic will host the Orienteering World Cup again after 5 years. At the same time, this year is exactly 40 years since the first unofficial World Cup. Let’s take a look at the history of these races in the Czech Republic in the series. During the spring and summer of 2023, we will offer a look behind the scenes at all these international events. Today, we move to Prague, where the World Cup was held in 2018, and we touch a bit on 2016 as well.

Bronze from Jeseníky

Similarly to the last article, we have included the European Championships, which took place at the end of May 2016 in Jeseniky. The races at this championship were also part of the World Cup. The whole event was organized by a team led by David Aleš, the technical director was Lukáš König, and Daniel Wolf was in charge of the sports part. It all started in Bruntál (sprint relay), the discipline was added to the program later. The Czech team of Denisa Kosová, Jan Procházka, Vojtěch Král and Jana Knapová finished fifth. Two races were waiting for the participants the day after – qualification and final in Jeseník, the centre of the races. Vojtěch Král achieved the best position among the Czechs, finishing eleventh. The next two days, the action moved to Bílá Voda, within sight of the Polish border – the qualification and then the final in the long distance were prepared. Dana Šafka Brožková (9th place) and Jan Šedivý (10th place) made it into the top 10. Černá Voda hosted the last two races – middle and relay. Jan Šedivý made a great run around the rocky middle and got 6th place. In the relays, the men (Jan Petržela, Jan Šedivý, Vojtěch Král) were on the top position for a long time, but in the end, they enjoyed the bronze.

Joy or disappointment? Bronze in the relay race, although it looked like gold during the race. Photo: Petr Kadeřávek.

“Replacement” for the Swiss

The final series of the World Cup is usually hosted by Switzerland, but in 2018 this country preferred to host the European Championships in May and a host was searched for. “Two years ago in the autumn I took it as a challenge and thought that we hadn’t hosted a classic World Cup since 2011, which is certainly a shame,” explains David Aleš, chairman of the World Cup organising committee, explaining the reasons for the candidacy. Prague was chosen as the centre of the event. Besides the fact that it is the capital of the Czech Republic, the fact that there have been no international races here for over twenty years played a role. “The autumn term of the World Cup is usually sprint-oriented and we put importance on this when looking for suitable terrains. Prague was a perfect fit,” explains Aleš. The competitors had a very busy programme – 4 races in 4 days, 3 of which were sprint races. Only Saturday’s middle was held in the forests – in the Czech orienteering delicacy, the sandstone rocks of the Bohemian Paradise. The final round of the World Cup took place in Prague, Turnov and Mladá Boleslav on October 4-7.

Knock-Out sprint on the international stage for the first time

Nowadays this discipline is already included in the program of the World Championships or European Championships, but few people know that it has just been introduced for the very first time in Prague. Because of this, the organizers have to invent a number of technical things to make it work (e.g. QR codes on the maps so that during the race with self-choice of the route the TV knows who is running which variant or the creation of so-called stables at the start). And it was a dream start. Vojtěch Král started the final race at the Prague Exhibition Grounds more carefully from last place, but he was in the lead in the spectator section. When he was the first to run out of the final passage, the whole arena was on its feet. “The final round was absolutely perfect, from qualifying to the final I kept improving, physically and mentally. I didn’t look at the others at all, I just did my job,” smiled the happy winner at the finish line. It was a dream start. Jana Knapová, Marek Minář and Denisa Kosová also made it to the semi-finals.

Great! The first race at the World Cup 2018 and victory for Vojta Král at the start of a new discipline. Photo: Petr Kadeřávek.

Even on Petřín Hill you can catch bronze

The time schedule was unforgiving for the competitors and the organizers. The very next day, on Friday 5 October, after a hard Thursday, was another race- sprint relay. The composition of the Czech relay team was the same as at the World Championships in Latvia, i.e. Jana Knapová started the race, Miloš Nykodým and Vojtěch Král took care of the men’s sections, Tereza Janošíková finished. “I wasn’t entirely sure of my choices at the start of the race and may have chosen a worse route choice. After yesterday’s demanding programme, I admit that I was not feeling so well and I am fighting a cold, so it is a bit more, but I think that I brought it so that the boys and Terka will be able to do something about it,” Jana Knapová told Czech TV immediately after the race. Miloš Nykodým didn’t avoid one mistake in the beginning of the second section, but then he tightened up massively and pulled the Czech team already in the top ten of the overall standings. At the finish, he was in 9th place with a loss of 1:36 to the leader Sweden. What form did yesterday’s winner wake up to? That was the question of the third section, where Vojtěch Král was running. He was doing very well. He pulled down 44 seconds on the entire leg and suddenly the Czech team was in contention for a medal, with Král handing over to Janosikova in 4th place. “It was very hard today, after yesterday’s programme I didn’t have the best legs, but I clenched my teeth and ran as hard as I could,” said Vojtěch Král. At that time, junior Tereza Janošíková had a very difficult task on the last section, but she managed it well. Because of the mistake of the Swedish Alexandersson on the second check, it looked like a fight for the silver medal for the Czech competitor. However, Janošíková lost something in the next sections and she was guarded by two Swiss teams. She finished in fifth place, but in the reduced ranking it meant a great 3rd place and the Czech team took a medal for the first time in this discipline! Switzerland won and Sweden finished second.

How Nykodým Conquered Valdštejn

For the weekend, the entire World Cup event moved to the north from Prague. The competitors had only one forest discipline – a middle course in the difficult sandstone terrains of the Bohemian Paradise. The arena of Saturday’s race was right next to the Valdštejn Castle, which also provided a pre-start procedure (the castle had to be climbed on specially built stairs designed only for this event). Not everyone could adapt to the specific terrain. Tove Alexandersson, the current World Cup leader from Sweden, made several mistakes and finished in 10th place behind three Czech competitors. The best was Denisa Kosova in seventh place. The winner was Karolin Ohlsson of Sweden, who was 70 seconds ahead of Julia Jakob of Switzerland, with Sweden’s Lina Strand losing another second in third. In the men’s race, Miloš Nykodým made a mistake at the first control, but then he calmed down and especially the second half of the course went very well. He took the lead for the first time at the 17th control and gained a decisive advantage at the 19th control, where he chose to go around the valley and didn’t let anyone in front of him until the finish. The Czech representative could thus celebrate the historic title! “Winning a World Cup race was a big dream of mine. I still can’t take it in yet, I hope that tomorrow I will be able to achieve what I did today,” rejoiced Nykodým just before the winners were announced, still shaking his head in disbelief. He finished 51 seconds ahead of the second Swiss Andreas Kyburz, while Gernot Ymsen Kerschbaumer from Austria took third place. Pavel Kubát also completed his life race. He even led in the first half of the course, but finished fourth, just 9 seconds away from the medal.

Miloš Nykodým – the winner of the World Cup’s middle distance in 2018. Photo: Tomáš Bubela.

Farewell to Radek Novotný

The final race was the last chance to gain points for the overall SP ranking and a great spectator turnout. This was the backdrop of the sprint competition in the historical part of Mladá Boleslav. Only the top 40 athletes in both categories were qualified for the main race, the Czechs had 5 representatives in both the men’s and women’s categories. The best result was achieved by Tereza Janošíková when she took a great 10th place. “I didn’t lose more than 10 seconds there, I tried to fight. Overall I am very satisfied,” the young competitor evaluated her performance after the finish. Two more Czech competitors made it to the top 20: Jana Knapová was 14th and Vendula Horčičková was 19th. The women’s race was dominated by Sweden’s Tove Alexandersson, second was Maija Sianoja from Finland and third was Judith Wyder from Switzerland. Vojtěch Král was one of the three athletes who completed the full programme of the final World Cup series. This probably had an impact on his performance in the final sprint, where he finished 14th. “There was no more strength today,” Král assessed his performance, he made a big mistake on the 16th control and, like the other Czech athletes, did not choose the fastest routes. The winner from the day before Miloš Nykodým was 22nd. The race was won by Sweden’s Jonas Leandersson, who retired after the World Cup. Yannick Michiels of Belgium lost seven seconds to him, while Matthias Kyburz was another second worse in the third position. After the race, the Czech team was farewelled by coach Radek Novotný, who has been with the national adult team for 16 years. He gave the coaching position to Jan Šedivý, who still ran the race on Saturday at Valdštejn as a competitor.

Radek Novotný left his coaching position of the Czech representation team. Photo: Jiří Čech.