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WOC 2011 – who will be the winners?

Or “Is Selfconfidence in WOC 2011 more important than in other years?”

This is the question I asked myself from the sportpsychological perspective. I won’t run this years WOC but after 2 weeks training camp in this years terrain, some races and especially after what happened in the testraces of the top nations around Annecy and Aix-les-Bains it got more and more interesting for me what will happen at this years WOC – who will be the big winners ? who the losers?

The terrain is obviously more special than the terrain of other WOCs in the last year. Its stony and generally not fast to run, its really difficult – and it seems like many runners have problems to see whats on the map in the terrain and wise versa. And after the “international orienteering community” found out about that “problem” it seems like more teams but especially single people or just groups of runners than ever travel down to France to learn more about the terrain – everybody has the feeling that this WOC needs some special preparation to be good – latest after he/she has run there once.

It’s a special picture at the training camps in france – meeting many different nations on at the parkings coming back from the forest. I cant remember hearing ever more discussing, talking, moaning about a terrain as in France – seeing so many different impressions in the faces of people as there: Some runners obviously had an awful run, already coming swearing and moaning out of the forest, others seem to be more quiet even sad or desperate after the trainings – some come back with a smile finding it adventurous. And the sentence I have heard most there was for sure: “I maybe can walk in this terrain to find stuff but for sure not run”.

But I think its also a special picture what to expect from this years WOC from runners coaches and fans. All seem to expect something special but still seem not totally sure what they should expect.

But what will be the qualities making the world champion world champion this year? Some say this year will be also more luck –people who don’t have so much chance in others will have the chance to be good this year. But I am not so sure about if that’s true – at least for the first places I am quite sure that some other qualities will be the clue:

To the facts we know about the WOC terrain from the training maps and competitions in the last months :

– More people than normal – especially from the top athletes do bigger mistakes than normal – mistakes from 3 to 7 minutes happen now and again – unusual for most other terrains

– The maps seem to be drawn differently than usual for many athletes – even after a few trainings people seem to have problems to see things like in the terrain on the map – it is often discussed that some areas on the WOC training maps are not so good maped.

– Most athletes who have competed there at least more or less successfully told about a in comparison relatively slow running speed during the race to be able to read everything that is important in the terrain and get threw the obstacles on the ground.

– It seems that no one is totally immune against big mistakes there – looking at the international selection races there was no athlete doing no mistakes in the races almost all did even big mistakes. But still: taking the average of the races it was anyway clear that some people (for example Thierry Giourgiou, Daniel Hubmann ) anyway do much better and more stable orienteering than others in the terrain.

So to get an idea what’s important to be good at World Champs could be to look at those people who handle the terrain best at the moment. Of course you could say it’s the same ones who are the big favorites also in other terrains – but I think that’s just true on the first look.

Deviding in the different performance factors in orienteering the theories/solutions could be the following:

– The best/more stable ones could be better runners. Its quite obvious that the running speed itself doesn’t make the difference between good and very good in this terrain. Looking at sprint results or results in other terrain – it is never as varying as in france.

– The best ones could be technically better. Looking at the situation just for a short moment it must be said: yes! that must be the case in such a difficult terrain. And I think that’s also true. But still there are some question marks: In a very difficult training terrain of last years woc people also did mistakes but never as big ones as in france. Taking last years more difficult areas (like Middle Qualification) there were much more people who where technically on the same leverel. Furthermore also some of the technically otherwise very stable people – everyone- is sometimes doing big mistakes in France – it even happens to the Great Chef Thierry Giorgiou sometimes. You could say now that it’s the not so good drawn maps no in france. That is maybe true for just very little parts of very few maps where really everyone has problems. But its still at most competitions the same people finding controls without or just little mistakes. And even when those people did bigger mistakes some of the others found exactly these controls with a concept – so I don’t believe the luck factor. And people notice in a very low running speed that it can be done to navigate and simplify also this terrain.

– I think in this case the third factor – the mental one – will be this year the most important one of course in addition to a very good running performance and general good technical skills. Of course I am saying this because I am a sportpsychologist 🙂 but I think as many people are being on about the same technical and physical level this will be the clue and I think that was already the reason for the big gaps in many testraces.

And from all mental abilities I think the self confidence is in this years WOC more important than ever. Its important at all important competitions for good performance but very especially this year – I think.

To know that you are good in this terrain can help more than ever before before because then you can better avoid biiig mistakes! if you know that you can interpretate the terrain in a good way then you will have the courage to run as fast to read everything necessary in the terrain. If you loose yourself a little bit you will know when you are close to the control that it has to be somewhere close to you and you will see it at least after one or the other minutes but if you just start for one moment doubting about yourself or about the map or something else, not seeing on the map what is in the terrain, thinking you could be totally wrong ,you will start doing big circles. You will have to run out to a certain point and come into the detailed area again but already being unsure that you can find the control. And many of the runners in france have aleady found out that running out and in again can be necessary also sometimes more than once or twice. And then the mistakes are getting bigger and bigger.

Also is it a question of selfconfidence that a runner with selfconfidence knows how high his running speed can be to keep the level of mistakes. The thinking that for this terrain in the training you have to jog but at WOC you will have to run is not logical and those ones who will be the best at WOC will know that their running speed will be enough – even if its not maximum – to be good in this terrain. Others who don’t believe in their abilities will think they have to run faster or will try to take the risk to run faster to succeed which will probably not be the way to success.

But whats to be done in the short time before WOC? Of course many training hours in the terrain can lead to a better self confidence but I think that will not be enough in this special case. Of course athletes are different and some will build up or have already built up there self confidence automatically but I think most also have to work on it to have the knowledge to be good enough. It also needs to be trained in the technical trainings in the WOC terrain because I think it won’t be in the end just the spent hours in the French bush that will lead to the success it will be those hours plus the mental preparation of all the trainings.

It will be exciting to see who will be the best! Maybe the winners will be no surprises, but there will be for sure no one winning the terrain races with low selfconfidence! And shortly behind the winners can happen a lot. Maybe people will afterwards say it was luck if someone unexpected is good – but maybe this runner just had the knowledge that he is good in this terrain which helped him or her 🙂

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