The Arena of Verona hosts the new European Orienteering champions: Switzerland’s Matthias Kyburz (12’26”) and Sweden’s Sara Hagström (12’17”) won the 2023 continental title over the Sprint distance in the beautiful setting of Piazza Bra. An individual time trial challenge on two courses of about 4 km as the crow flies with 20 checkpoints in the UNESCO World Heritage historic center of Verona, along which they managed to prove themselves quicker than the others by their ability to run the right race speed while reading the map and without making mistakes.
With the Sprint, the European Orienteering Championships 2023, valid as World Cup finals, officially kicked off. For the first time in Italy, the event sees 2,000 total participants running with map and compass representing 39 countries in the 8-day competition in 10 different municipalities. The event, under the aegis of IOF-International Orienteering Federation and FISO-Italian Orienteering Sport Federation, boasts the patronages of the Prime Minister’s Office, Sport and Health, Veneto Regional Council, Province of Verona and Vicenza, Municipalities of Verona, Soave and Vicenza, along with charity partners Don Mazzi Youth Centers and Città della Speranza Foundation.
The day began in the morning with the qualifying round at the Borgo Venezia and Borgo Santa Croce districts: the 276 elite athletes were on the field divided into three men’s and three women’s heat’s. Only 45 men and 46 women made it to the final round, which was introduced by greetings from Verona City Council President Stefano Vallani and the Livorno Navy fanfare.
The new European champion, who snatched the title from Sweden’s Emil Svensk, preceded on a heart-stopping podium by Norway’s Kasper Harlem Fosser (12’30”) and Finland’s Tuomas Heikkila (12’31”). On the women’s side, Sara Hagström surprisingly undermines Sweden’s Tove Alexandersson (12’25”), holder of the 2021 European Sprint and Knock-Out titles, followed by Switzerland’s Simona Aebersold (12’40”). As for the Italian national team, the best placements belong to Riccardo Scalet (PWT Italy), 15th in 13’03”, and Francesco Mariani (Polisportiva G. Masi), 25th in 13’15”. All the results are here.
“The race was very fast – said winner Matthias Kyburz – from a technical point of view not the most difficult. Given the speed, the problem was to avoid making stupid mistakes, just the kind you can make on such occasions. I succeeded very well especially in handling this aspect. It was exciting to race in a setting like Verona. I expected the center to be more crowded, instead it was a fair competition in that sense, a very important aspect in a Sprint. Previously I was focused on the World Championships in Switzerland and then had to switch to the European Championships. Really happy with this win and to have ended the season with this gold medal”.
“Everything was fantastic – commented an excited Sara Hagström – I was really happy to run in such a beautiful city, although I feared the presence of many tourists. Instead there were no inconveniences and the competition was very well organized. I made a small mistake, but it did not affect my performance, it did not make me lose much time. I am delighted, I dreamed of this medal for a long time and it finally came”.
THE TECHNICAL INFORMATION ON THE MAPS
The first and third parts of the qualifying race in Borgo Santa Croce, mapped by course setter Stefano Zonato, involved an area of high population density, which therefore imposed a reduced running speed due to the large number of checkpoints. In the second part, however, wide tree-lined avenues and small parks, where the control points were more sparse and the running speed will be higher.
The final Sprint, mapped by course setter Francesco Buselli, took place in the Roman grid of the historic center with arrival at Piazza Bra next to Palazzo Barbieri. The first long high-speed stretches were followed by shorter stretches designed in the city’s most intricate area, passing through historic squares. Halfway through, the athletes had a map flip that took them back to areas close to those already visited in the first part. Last stretches, before the finish required a faster speed, similar to the start of the course.
WORLD CUP RESULTS
In the overall World Cup standings, Kasper Fosser (Norway) remains ahead and is the favorite to win his third consecutive title in the men’s class. After the Verona Sprint, however, Fosser leads by only 33 points over Matthias Kyburz, who, on the other hand, is far behind Gustav Bergman (Sweden) in third. Tove Alexandersson won her ninth consecutive World Cup title, leading the women’s class with 110 points ahead of compatriot Sara Hagström and with Simona Aebersold (Switzerland) 113 points behind in third. Alexandersson tie Simone Niggli-Luders’ record of nine World Cup titles.
The Europeans will move on October 6 to the Foro Boario in Soave for the adrenaline-filled Sprint Relay (2:30-4:30 p.m.) in the presence of the Scaligero Castle to decree the strongest mixed teams composed of men and women. Finally, for the Sprint Knock-Out on October 8, after qualifying in Creazzo (8:30 a.m.-12 p.m.), the best will vie for the title in Vicenza (12-4 p.m.) with finish line in Piazza Matteotti, turning their eyes to the Palladian Teatro Olimpico and Palazzo Chiericati.
EOC Tour also continues, including entertainment, food and wine and music. After Verona, new dates in Prada – Monte Baldo (Oct. 5) between the towns of Brenzone sul Garda and San Zeno di Montagna, Soave (Oct. 6), Alonte (Oct. 7) and Vicenza (Oct. 8). Each date is accompanied by moments of exploration of the area, such as sailing the lake from Peschiera del Garda, home of the event center Camping Bella Italia, or visits to Natura Viva Park in Bussolengo and local wineries. The ascent to Mount Baldo by the Malcesine – Mount Baldo Cable Car and the Prada – Costabella Cable Car are spectacular, and in Alonte the walk among the Prosecco vineyards of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Colli Berici e Vicenza followed by a tasting.