The Sprint Finals offered all kinds of obstacles – sudden showers, accompanied by thunder, speed reducing crowds of tourists, slippery cobblestone, narrow passages and yards that made routechoices tricky – only those who managed to cope with this bunch of challenge could aim for medals. The rivals were worth each other – as the Men’s class winner only won by a second while Maja Alm confirmed her Sprint Queen title for the fourth time.
It was the first time ever that Sprint Finals took place in the very centre of the capital city. Both organizers and runners faced new challenges fighting their way through slow Saturday afternoon sightseeing lovers from all around the world, simultaneously trying to solve puzzles offered by the course planner.
Swiss Daniel Hubmann excelled in this task undoubtedly – a new gold was added to his collection from 2011 and 2017. However, this didn’t come for granted. Hubmann had a rather late start minute and managed to complete the 4.3 km course in 14 minutes 5,9 seconds, which gave him a 20.2 seconds advantage over the current leader - his compatriot Adreas Kyburz. The time to celebrate had not come yet – Tim Robertson from the other side of the globe – New Zealand – was on his way aiming at victory. 0.7 seconds was Tim’s advantage just 300 metres before the finish line, but the slight margin turned into 1.2 seconds behind Hubmann’s time at the finish and Daniel’s victory was secured. Simultaneously, Kyburz felt like sitting on needles – being a late starter Belgian Yannick Michiels could threaten Andreas’ podium position. Finally, 0.6 seconds lost madeYannick desperate while Andreas’ jumped so high, that he almost surpassed Knight Roland’s statue standing in the Town Square. No wonder – this was his first WOC podium!
Latvian orienteers didn’t make it to top ten. Rūdolfs Zērnis’ debut in WOC gave him 22nd position, from 45 finalists while Andris Jubelis ranked 32nd (his previous best was 38th back in 2015) but Artūrs Pauliņš finished 33rd (28th in 2017). The margin between Hubmann and Zērnis was 59 seconds, Jubelis and Pauliņš lost respectively a minute and 17.8 seconds and a minute and 22.7 seconds.
Ladies managed to finish before the showers and the fight didn’t offer so much thrill. Maja Alm made several mistakes in the initial part of the couse, however, she still managed to beat her rivals. 13 minutes and 43.2 seconds spent on 3.8 km course resulted in a historical record – Maja Alm became 4 times World Sprint Champion. Current world ranking leader Tove Alexandersson finished 16.8 seconds behind, which gave her silver position, while bronze was won by Swiss Judith Wider (WOC gold 2014).
The only Latvian qualified for Finals – Sandra Grosberga – was close to top 10, but some minor mistakes pushed her back to 17th position. Alm’s advantage over Grosberga was a minute and 34 seconds, but if Sandra were half a minute faster, she would fit in top ten. Anyway, her best effort was 20th place in WOC2017.
Individual sprint races are over, but tomorrow afternoon at 5 p.m. Mixed Sprint Relay will start in Āgenskalns. The Arena is situated in Uzvaras parks where Aleksandra Grīna bulvāris crosses Slokas iela. See you there!