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Course of the Year 2023: World Champs Middle!


A very varied middle distance course in Switzerland is the “Orienteering Course of the Year 2023″ – the women’s course in the World Orienteering Championships Middle distance Final! The course really challenged the competitors – with some very tricky orienteering in the start,  a challenging routechoice leg, and some faster but still challenging orienteering towards the end. 

To top it off, the area is truly spectacular – and with a multiple world champion among the two course setters. A very worthy winner! Read on for a long and detailed interview with course setters Simone Niggli and Urs Steiner!

– A real middle distance challenge

The winning course was the first course being nominated for Course of the Year 2023 – by Martina who described the course as “a course with really tricky orienteering and so nice to follow on tv! A real middle distance challenge”. You can also check out World of O’s analysis of the race here (“WOC 2023 Middle Analysis: From slow to fast – but all tricky”). And a leg from the course was featured in Route to Christmas 2023 – at Day 7.

For the first time since “The Course of the Year”-contest was started in 2010, a women’s course was explicitly crowned as the winner. This was the 5th time in the contests’ history that a World Champs Middle distance came up on top – just as in 2011 (France), 2014 (Italy), 2017 (Estonia) and 2018 (Czech Republic).

WOC 2023 Middle Final Women

» See map in omaps.worldofo.com

Before heading over to the interview with the course setters– a big thanks to all the sponsors of “Course of the Year” – without you this would not have been possible. Dear readers: Please head down to the bottom of the article and consider the fine sponsor prizes. Information about “lucky voter” prizes will be published within a few days.


Long and Sprint course of the year

The “Long distance Course of the Year 2023″ was a very interesting – and maybe somewhat surprising – entry, the Japan Orienteering Championships Long Distance (overall 2nd) which many readers of World of O got to know well during the Route to Christmas series. The “Sprint Course of the Year 2023″ was all the way down in 13th place, the Penamacor International Orienteering Meeting 2023 Sprint. See full results below the interview with the course setters of the winning course.

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Interview with course setters of Course of the Year 2023 – Simone Niggli and Urs Steiner

Q: What was your overall plan behind how you wanted to challenge the athletes on this course?
– At the very beginning, it must be said that we were very blessed with the terrain, which is quite unique. Not too difficult to set a nice middle distance course, is it? Of course, it was not that easy, and we really tried to give our best to challenge the athletes with an interesting course that included both technical tricky controls and route choices combined with change of speed. We wanted to have a difficult beginning of the course and use the most runnable parts of the terrain. It should be a course that the athletes enjoy running and remember as a highlight of the orienteering year 2023. And of course, the course should be fair so that the best ones win.

At the very beginning, it must be said that we were very blessed with the terrain, which is quite unique.

Q: Did you have any special worries about the courses in the morning of “the big day”?
– As we were very well prepared and had a great teamwork, there was not that much to worry about beside the normal nervosity for such a big event. We were a bit unsure about the winning times. We predicted them to be somewhat longer [than the guidelines], but how much? Most concerns the last days were about the water level of the lake Cauma. When we checked out the terrain in May, the water level was very low (see map illustration on the right below) and we thought that the runners could run along the lakeside to the TV control at the corner of the lake. Even the locals were surprised when the water level was that much higher only some days later, and they told us that we could not know what it would look like in July… So we followed the development and were lucky when the water level remained stable after having printed the maps.


Q: Did requirements from TV or media give you any special restrictions which made it more tricky to make a good course? 
– We had a good collaboration with TV right from the beginning and therefore the concepts were discussed early. There were quite a lot of discussions about the first TV control (control 5) where we didn’t get our favourite variant, but in the end we were all happy with the result.

We had a good collaboration with TV right from the beginning and therefore the concepts were discussed early

– The longer passage along the lake was a topic as well. In our course-setter team, we first had some dreams about a floating bridge crossing the lake in order to get a shorter running passage (and to get some nice pictures; see map illustration below). Due to logistical and financial reasons the dream didn’t come true…

Q: What is your favourite leg in the course – and why?
Simone: – I have a favourite hill where my favourite control (control 9) and favourite leg (leg 9-10) is placed. The terrain around controls 7 to 10 is fantastic, a paradise in the forest! It’s not the most technical part but you can run so smoothly in this area that it is pure pleasure. Originally, we placed control 9 in the northern re-entrance which would have been even nicer, but due to a fallen tree we could not put the control there after all.


Urs: – Leg 9-10 is an interesting one because there is some micro route choice, and it becomes quite dense into the control which makes it challenging to attack the control. Even after having been there several times, we got some troubles finding the right knoll there.

Q: Did you get any surprises with respect to which routechoices were fastest or were the athletes made mistakes?
– We were surprised that so many athletes missed the first control. Actually, we thought that the women’s first control should not cause many problems but of course the beginning of a race is always special and really important.


– We were very happy to see that there were so many different routes on the long leg to control 4 where execution was crucial, and you should use the runnable parts.


– Leg 16-17 was another small route choice but as expected there was only 1 runner going straight. But you could gain some time going out of control 16 by running north-east and avoid some climbing. It was not that easy to put a longer leg in this terrain, and we were aware that the teams would prepare well. But we hope that we gave them something to think about.


Q: Did you personally like the men’s or women’s course best?
Urs: – I like the beginning of the men’s course somewhat more (see illustration below), but the middle part of the women’s course is better in my opinion.


Simone: – I don’t have any favourite course and I’m happy to say that! The only advantage with men’s course is that you can run longer in this fantastic terrain! As with women’s course, I like the beginning of the course which is really demanding. In fact, we expected more problems for the athletes with the first control in the men’s race than in women’s race, but the opposite was the case. I really like the 3rd control of men’s course (see illustration above); it is difficult as it is quite dense around the control and precise mapreading is needed.

I really like the 3rd control of men’s course; it is difficult as it is quite dense around the control and precise mapreading is needed.

Q: When did you start planning the courses for WOC Middle – and how many hours do you think you spent on it? Can you take us through part of the planning process?
– Two years before [the race], we got the updated map and started intensively with course setting. Before that, we had a lot of talks about the concepts of the races. As we had only one arena, we had to arrange the courses of long, middle and relay around the arena in a good way. For the middle distance, it was quite obvious that we should use the tricky part around lake Cauma, but it was not easy to reach the arena in the last part. We had a big advantage that the mapper (Urs Steiner) was in the course setter team. I (Simone) was  several times stunned about how he managed to map this difficult area in a good and readable way. A real piece of art!


– We walked  around in the terraina for lot of hours, discussing the best spots for the controls. And in the evening Urs remembered all the details he wanted to correct on the map. We had quite soon a good basic concept, and then it was most about finding the best control sites and involving TV production. We spent a lot of time with the passage around the lake in order to get nice TV pictures while not only [featuring] road running and easily readable legs on the map. Every time we worked in the forest we were happy about the beautiful terrain and we were eager to share it with the best orienteering athletes in the world.

Every time we worked in the forest we were happy about the beautiful terrain and we were eager to share it with the best orienteering athletes in the world

– It was a pleasure to work with the team (Stefan, Bruno and Matthias beside the two of us), because all had their thoughts and inputs and there was always good chemistry in our meetings. During the last two years, we spent several hours fine tuning the courses, not counting the hours just mentally working on them in the bed or during training sessions.


From left to right: Matthias Niggli (Technical director), Urs Steiner (cartographer, course setter), Simone Niggli (course setter), Bruno Haldemann (course setter), Stefan Zingg (course setter).

Q: Thanks a lot for the interview, Simone and Urs. And again congratulations to a great course and a fantastic job!

Results: Course of the Year 2023

After having two sprint courses in the top in the 2023 edition, all courses in the Top 10 in 2023 were forest courses – with long distance courses in both second, third, fourth and fifth spot.

We have 4 different countries in the Top 6 – Switzerland, Japan, Romania and Czechia – with Switzerland and Czechia very well represented in the top of the list. In addition we have Finland, Sweden and Italy in the top 10 –  thus a good geographical spread.

1. WOC 2023 Middle Final Women
    8500 points
2. Japan Orienteering Championships Long 2023 M21E
    8050 points
3. JWOC 2023 | Long | Men
    7540 points
4. World Cup Round Czechia 2023 Long Men
    7260 points
5. WOC Long 2023 M21E
    6780 points
6. World Cup Round Czechia 2023 Middle Men
    5810 points
7. Swiss-O-Week 2023 Stage 3 M21E
    5280 points
8. Jukola 2023 Leg 3
    4840 points
9. Swedish Champs Middle 2023 Final M21E
    4350 points
10. Primiero O-week 2023 Stage 2
    4210 points
11. Costa Cálida long 2023 M21E
    3810 points
12. Swedish Champs Long 2023 Final W21E
    3730 points
13. Penamacor International Orienteering Meeting 2023 Sprint
    3660 points
14. World Cup Czechia 2023 Sprint Men Elite
    3080 points
15. WMOC 2023 Long Final M35A
    3050 points
16. KO Sprint Czech Champs 2023 Final
    2940 points
17. Czech Champs Long 2023 Final
    2690 points
18. Trofeo Aragon 2023 Middle
    2370 points
19. OOcup/2023 Stage 4 M21E
    2360 points
20. Fin5 Day 2 Sprint M21E
    2280 points
21. Finnish Champs Long W21
    2270 points
22. MOC Championships Long – Stage 2 M21E
    2240 points
23. CEO 2023 | Sprint ME
    2230 points
24. Spanish Champs Middle 2023 Soria M21E
    2190 points
25. Sudety Open 2023
    2110 points

Prizes from our Sponsors

Prizes from our Sponsors always makes it more fun! There will be a prize for the first one suggesting the course which ends up becoming “The course of the Year 2023″, and prizes drawn among the ones suggesting and voting. All prizes are transferable to other persons (you don’t have to travel yourself).

Event sponsor: SEE(M)OC & III. PERGAMON O-WEEK 2024 August 28th – September 1st 2024 (Turkiye)

  • Prize offered: 3 packages, each consisting of 2 free participations for 5 stages in any class (competition classes or open courses), 2 free accommodation and 2 free transportation from Event Center to competition arenas at SEE(M)OC & Pergamon O- Week 2024. Total value up to 1560 EUR. Transferable to other persons.
  • More information:  3 competitions in one event. 12th South-East European Orienteering Championship (SEEOC)2024, 13th South-East European Masters Orienteering Championship (SEEMOC) 2024 & III. Pergamon Orienteering Week (POW)2024.  Foot orienteering 5 days events opened for everybody, the orienteering courses for individual categories are the same as matching SEEOC/SEEMOC categories. Kozak has a unique geographical structure consisting mostly of pine nut forest at an average altitude of 700-800 meters above sea level. The terrain shows detailed contours features and makes it important to use orienteering techniques. For more information see https://seeoc2024.org & https://anatolia-o-group.com/en/


Event sponsor: 56th Kainuu Orienteering Week (KOW), June 30th – July 5th (Finland)

  • Prize offered: 4 packages, each consisting of 2 free participations for the whole week in any class (competition classes or open courses) at Kainuu Orienteering Week 2024. Total value up to 920 EURTransferable to other persons.
  • Open and International Orienteering Week in Finland, city of Kajaani and Joutenlampi competition terrain (EOC and WUOC qualification races in stages 1-3)
  • More information: Kainuu Orienteering Week is the Finland’s biggest orienteering week and the world’s second oldest orienteering week, as it has been held annually since the year 1966. Kainuu O Week is held in the Kainuu region of Finland and traditionally the event is held in the beginning of July (week 27). Welcome to Kajaani to enjoy orienteering and holiday week in the amazing orienteering terrain of Joutenlampi. Joutenlampi is most well-known for its pine forest moor terrain where runnability is mostly very good. KOW2024’s orienteering map and terrain area is definitely one of the best in Kainuu. Experience a memorable orienteering week in Kajaani! Note also the 3rd official Kainuu MTBO Week 30 June – 5 July in Kajaani – come and enjoy the best MTBO terrains and great landscapes of Kainuu and Kajaani. The following entry steps are: 29th Feb 2024 / 31st May 2024 / 10th June 2024. For more information see www.rastiviikko.fi.


Event sponsor: 5 Days Dolomiti Paganella, July 1st – 6th 2024 (Italy)

  • Price offered: 2 packages, each consisting of 2 free entries to the complete 5 Days Colomiti Paganella. Total value of the package is approximately 480 euro.
  • More information: Every year 5 Days brings you to Italy to discover wonderful locations where you can practice orienteering, and in 2024 it will be Trentino‘s moment to welcome you to its Paganella Dolomites. From July 1 to 6, a corner of paradise, including Molveno, Andalo, Fai della Paganella, Cavedago, Spormaggiore, San Lorenzo Dorsino, and Piana Rotaliana, will host your vacation, which will allow the whole family to spend pleasant days of sports but not only.There are numerous proposals aimed at adults and children, so don’t waste time: you have until December 31 to register for 5 Days Dolomiti Paganella at a discounted price.  Webpage: https://www.5daysitaly.it/


Event sponsor: 5+5 Italy, 30th September to 4th October and 7th October to 11th October 2024

  • Price offered: 2 packages, each consisting of 2 free entries to the complete 5+5 Lignano in October 2024. Total value of the package is approximately 480 euro.
  • More information: PWT Italia will organize the traditional 5+5 days next October among the forests and cities around Venice and Trieste. Event centre on the beach. Information and Bulletin will be available at https://www.orienteering.it shortly


Software sponsor: OCAD Orienteering 3-year single user license

  • Prize offered: One 3-year runtime single user licence for the software “OCAD Orienteering”.  Value about 400 EUR. Transferable to other person (before activation).
  • More information: OCAD 2018 Orienteering – Perfect to Produce Orienteering Maps. Course Setting Module included! Read more at https://www.ocad.com/en/.


Event sponsor: OOCup 2024, July 16th – 20th 2024 (France)

  • Prize offered: 2 packages, each for 2 people – consisting of: Entry for the complete 5 days OOCup competition. Total value around 400 EUR. Transferable to other persons.
  • In 2024 we are going back to AIN department, France. We will use areas close to ones from 2018 and 2020 but with plenty of newly mapped terrain! Some fabulous karst forests are waiting for you at OOcup/2024. It is going to be GREAT! More at oocup.com


Event sponsor: Lipica Open 2024, March 9th – 13th 2024 (Slovenia)

  • Prize offered: 2 packages, each for 2 people – consisting of entry to complete 5 Day Lipica Open competition. Value up to about 330 euro. Transferable to other persons.
  • Lipica Open is a popular season starter in the Kras region of Slovenia. Enjoy Slovenian karst terrain already in March. Please note that there are good training camp possibilities in SW part of Slovenia and feel free to contact us regarding that at any time. More at www.lipicaopen.com


Event sponsor: Tenerife O Camp 2024 Edition

  • Prize offered: A package for 2 people consisting of complete Tenerife O Camp 2024 Edition with 10 forest and 15 sprint trainings with omaps.io print & home delivered. Value up to 328 EUR. Transferable to other persons.
  • More information: In 2021, Tenerife O Camp was born out of the ambition of three Finnish mapmakers and course setters, who envisioned turning Tenerife into the best hotspot for winter orienteering. Already, this vision has come to fruition, attracting the world’s leading orienteers and national teams, as well as tourists who wish to explore the island through orienteering. The camp offers technical orienteering in various terrain types from the slopes of volcanoes to the detailed subtropical pine forests, all with unforgettable scenery. The combination of labyrinthine old towns, beach boulevards, and cozy fishing villages all around the island makes TOC ideal for sprint orienteering. Tenerife has earned its nickname “The Island of Eternal Spring,” as it nearly always enjoys temperatures above +20°C and over eight hours of sunshine daily throughout the year. With a wide range of accommodations and services, Tenerife O Camp provides an ideal setting for an exceptional orienteering experience. Read more at https://tenerifeocamp.com/


Event sponsor: Kapa 2024 – June 28th – 30th (Latvia)

  • Prize offered: Two “family entry packages” to Kapa 3days, where each package includes an entry for two adults and one child, space for a tent at the event camping and a car parking voucher. Total value is around 250 EUR. Transferable to other person.
  • More information: Kapa 3-days is the leading orienteering event in the Baltics, the 37th edition! We have hosted participants from around 20 countries, annually 1500 to 2000 orienteers. It is a long o-weekend for families – from Friday to Sunday 28th to 30th of June. This year we are entering a new terrain near Daugavpils, in the eastern part of Latvia.
  • Kindergarten will be available at the event centre, great atmosphere guaranteed, live music at the evening and a sprint relay at the event centre on day 2. Come with your family and enjoy the Baltic summer and the beautiful nature in Latvia! This year’s event page: https://2024.kapa.lv. Facebook page: https://facebook.com/Kapa3days.


Event sponsor: Pomorze Spint Cup 2024, May 24th – 26th 2024

  • Prize offered: 1 free entry package for 2 people for the Pomorze Sprint Cup 2024 to be held on 24-26 May 2024 in Kwidzyn. The package includes the entry fee and accommodation for 2 nights for 2 people. The value of the package is approximately EUR 230.
  • More information: We have already run around the medieval castles in Malbork and Gniew and the castle ruins in Dzierzgoń. We ran routes around the Bishop’s Gardens in Pelplin and through the historic streets of Grudziądz and Tczew. We also ran a route around the amazing Grudziadz Citadel, which was chosen as the “Course of the Year of 2022” . Each time we take you to interesting and surprising places in northern Poland. This time we will move to where it all began in 2019 and return to Kwidzyn after 5 years. Two stages will be organised in the historic center of the city. 2 of them are to count towards the World Ranking Event and one will have a Knock Out Sprint formula. Competitors in the other categories in all 4 stages will start in such a way that they can also cheer on the elite at all times. See you in Pomerania! More information will be available at the webpage http://www.umkskwidzyn.pl/aktualnosci-psc-2024


Event sponsor: NAOM 2024, February 16th – 18th 2024

  • Prize offered: Competition package for two persons for NAOM 2024 + complete package for GD4C training camps in Alto Alentejo. Value of 200 EUR.
  • Between the 16th and 18th of February 2024, NAOM welcomes you to Alto Alentejo. NAOM 2024 will offer two new forest maps in terrains with many rock details in fast Alentejo terrain. The sprint will equally offer a high challenge in the old town of Portalegre.
  • More information: From January until march GD4C training camps will offer over 15 trainings in the region of Portalegre and Castelo de Vide with many interesting training opportunities. Website: https://gd4caminhos.com/naom/en/


About Jan Kocbach

Jan Kocbach is the founder of WorldofO.com - taking care of everything from site development to writing articles, photography and analysis.

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