New Zealands top orienteers face a day of truth today in the World Orienteering Championship Middle Distance final.
Last Sunday four of the six person team advanced through the heats, all three of the women: Lizzie Ingham, Amber Morrison and Penny Kane as well as the indomitable Chris Forne.
The middle distance is the most technically demanding of the three individual disciplines. With winning times of around 30 minutes, tomorrows events will take place largely on a steep and rocky karst slope under the shade of mature beech trees. Competitors will pop out to the glare of the spectator arena before a final loop that adds to the drama.
In World Championship finals all competitors wear a gps tracking device that feeds live onto the internet and into the television broadcast that is displayed on a big screen at the event. Mistakes can be seen and replayed around the orienteering world.
Of the kiwis, Lizzie Ingham is the most likely to feature near the top of the results list. She has stepped into top echelon of world orienteers this week. Three confident and secure qualification races capped by 11th and 13th places in the sprint and long finals. A top ten result is very plausible.
Morrison and Kane are also eyeing top 20 results. Morrison who qualified an outstanding 5th in her heat seems to be finally over the foot problems that have dogged the beginning of her elite career. The challenge tomorrow will be finding the right opportunities to use her undoubted speed. Kane on the other hand will be looking for the rough detailed legs to gain an edge on her competition.
As for Forne, what can you say. The world 24hour rogaining champion prepared for this championship with a 200km mountain race and a road cycling tour of Iceland. He will bookend it with a month travelling in Nepal and the World Adventure Racing championship in Tasmania. He is not your usual athlete! Starting first expect him to hold the lead until at least halfway down the field.
As for the favourites, eight times world champion Thierry Georgiou must be a good chance although Swede Peter Overgrown defeated him in the qualification. While in the women it is hard to go past the all conquering Swedish team who have garnered five of the six medals won to date.