Maja Alm crushed her competitors in the World Championships Sprint in Strömstad – it was in the second part of the course she really accelerated and nobody could follow her. The course did not have many very decisive routechoice legs, but map reading and orienteering skills was still important.
As the analysis will show, only three of the runners on the start had the speed required for the medals; the medalists Maja Alm, Judith Wyder and Anastasia Denisova. The mistakes of these three were not so big that anyone else could have beaten them on this day. However, some of the non-starters focusing on the Sprint Relay like Tove Alexandersson, Helena Jansson or Anne Margrethe Hausken might have had the speed – but that is purely speculation.
The following analysis goes through the decisive points in the course – showing where the victory or medal chance was lost for the runners who had the speed for a top result. For maps, GPS-tracking and results from the race, see this summary article.
Who had the Speed for a Medal?
Here are the Top 15 (times rounded to whole seconds). The runners who had the speed to take Gold with a perfect race are marked in red (only Alm), and the runners with speed for a medal are marked in bold (only the medalists):
|7.||Ida Marie Naess Bjoergul||NOR||16:03||(+1:35)|
|8.||Silje Ekroll Jahren||NOR||16:03||(+1:35)|
Maja Alm: Slow start – strong finish
Maja Alm won 11 of the 21 legs, and lost 5 seconds or less to the leg winner on all legs – that was least of all runners in this race. Judith Wyder took the lead at the first control and stayed in front until control 5 – it looks like Wyder had higher running speed in the start, Alm taking it more easy (to save energy for the last part of the course?). Maja Alm took over the lead at control 6 of 21 controls and kept it until the finish.
Alm had two legs where she lost more than 2 seconds to the best split time; the 2nd leg and the 7th leg:
Leg 2: On the leg to the 2nd control Alm took the wrong route choice – running up. So did Judith Wyder, so this was not decisive in the fight for Gold, though. The leg to the second control is interesting because when you look at it at the split times without analyzing it thoroughly, it might look like there is no big time difference between up and down because Wyder and Alm who run up lose only 3 and 5 seconds to the best split time, respectively.
However, when taking away the three fastest runners who ran uphill from the leg, you see a very clear pattern where taking the right options makes you lose at least 10 seconds compared to going left. This is similar as for the men, except the time losses are somewhat bigger for the women as expected.
Leg 7: Here Alm takes a wrong route choice to the left, being some seconds slower because of some stairs and being somewhat longer. Very few runners make this routechoice mistake.
An interesting leg to explain why Maja Alm won the WOC Sprint 2016 is the long leg from 9 to 10. An easy leg from a routechoice perspective – here it is all about running fast. And that is exactly what Alm does – winning the leg with 7(!) seconds ahead of Wyder with Galina Vinogradova with the third best split time 9 seconds behind. Wyder’s route may be a second or two slower, but based on looking at all routes it should be fairly equal.
Judith Wyder: Strong start – then wrong routes & lack of speed
Judith Wyder had very high speed in the start of the race – taking the lead at the first control and keeping it until her wrong routechoice to the 6th control. Wyder took the wrong routechoice four times: To the 2nd control just like Alm, but with the high running speed she still kept the lead (and actually beat Alm with 2 seconds on this leg), to the 6th control where she lost 12 seconds to Alm, the micro routechoice to the 11th control where she lost 4 seconds to Alm and the micro routechoice to the 12th control where she lost 5 seconds to Alm. In addition Wyder loses 7 seconds to the “running leg” to the 10th control as discussed above.
With 25 seconds up to Alm’s Gold medal, Wyder could have come up to Alm’s winning time if she would have taken perfect routechoice all the way – including the leg to the 2nd control. But Alm’s race was technically better, and in addition Alm had higher running speed except in the first third of the race.
A look at the legs in question:
- The leg to the 6th control where Wyder loses 12 seconds. Here it is clearly faster (and shorter) to run to the right. In addition you get some stairs when going to the left, and due to the control placement on the inside of the hedge you use a few seconds extra to get to the control. The men had the same leg and only 2 men took the wrong route going left – for the women quite a few took the wrong choice.
- To the 11th control Wyder runs to the right first and then up the stairs. Alm also runs to the right first, but then cuts up the steep slope instead of taking the stairs. Alm is 4 seconds faster than Wyder here. Looking at all the runners on this leg, you see that many lose time by not climbing the steep hill – some running quite far around. Even among the Top 6 finishers there are 4 who don’t climb the steep hill. The fastest route is to go straight up the hill, without going to the right first as Alm does.
- To the 12th control it is difficult to read from the map where you get through – and this is part of the reason why Wyder loses 5 seconds here. Wyder goes too far left, and loses time here along with several others.
Of all the women, only Nadiya Volynska see the shortest route which is a 0.1 mm thick opening on the map between the building and the fence where the line connection the controls is removed. This opening is too small on the map compared to the ISSOM map norm (very surprising for a WOC map; the same problem can be seen for numerous stairs and passages on the map which are too narrow), and to make it even more tricky to spot, there is a contour line obscuring this narrow opening. Kudos to Volynska for seeing this, but the work by the map makers is not as impressive.
Anastasia Denisova: Big surprise – good technical race
Anastasia Denisova of Belarus was the big surprise of the day – running to a bronze medal in a convincing way. Comparing her race with the race of Alm, she actually beat Alm in 6 legs – Wyder beat Alm only in 5 legs. Denisova’s race was a very good one from a technical standpoint. She took the right routechoice to the 2nd control, winning this leg. From a technical standpoint, she took the wrong route on three different legs; to control 11 taking the stairs like Wyder and to control 12 struggling in the same area as Judith Wyder. In addition she lost time to control 17:
- On the leg to control 17 Denisova, Vinogradova and a few other runners run into a passage into the olive green (see map below). On TV one could see how Vinogradova passes a band on the floor, runs into the olive green, and then returns the same way. Denisova probably turned a bit earlier based on less time loss here.
In addition, some runners made routechoice mistakes here going either right (like Friederich) or left – losing 5-10 seconds.
- A note: Denisova also loses some time (4 seconds) to the 3rd control. It looks like going down the stairs (taking left) can be a bit slower here if you are not good at descending stairs – we saw the same in the men’s analysis.
Galina Vinogradova did not have the speed of Alm or Wyder, and thus we here compare her with the bronze medal of Denisova. Comparing to Denisova, she was only faster in 4 legs – the biggest time loss being 12 seconds to the 2nd control (wrong routechoice as discussed earlier). For the rest of the course the Russian lost 2-5 seconds on 11 legs – thus the speed was clearly too low.
In addition to the legs already discussed, Vinogradova (along with Friederich and Roos) take the wrong route to the 9th control and lose 6-8 seconds. Here going left gives you some stairs and narrow passages which are slower than going right. If you go far right that is even slower.
For Friederich the situation is similar as for Vinogradova. The Swiss beats Denisova in 6 legs and loses a lot of time to the 17th control. Still, the speed of Denisova is so much higher that even with a perfect race, Friederich would have had problems beating Denisova on this course on this day.
Elena Roos also has too far up to Denisova to fight for the medal. One notable mistake on a leg we have not looked at yet is control 13 where Roos (along with some others) runs into a wrong passage (towards olive green area).
The last runner to be mentioned in this analysis is Finnish Sari Anttonen. Anttonen did a huge 3 minute mistake at the first control – but after that run a very good race. Actually, just subtracting the 3 minutes lost to the 1st control would take Anttonen into 5th place. Comparing her race with Denisova, it looks like Denisova still had a slight edge speed-wise, but Anttonen might have managed to push even more without this big time loss at the start?
Judith Wyder had an estimated time loss of 11 seconds, the largest being 10 seconds (leg 6). Anastasia Denisova had an estimated time loss of 12 seconds, the largest being 5 seconds (leg 12).No timelosses were found for Galina Vinogradova based on the performance index. Rahel Friederich had an estimated time loss of 8 seconds, the largest being 7 seconds (leg 2). Elena Roos had an estimated time loss of 20 seconds, the largest being 11 seconds (leg 13). Sari Anttonen had an estimated time loss of 3:05, the largest being 2:56 (leg 1).