Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Sprint-discussion II

Thanks for all the comments on my last blog, some more constructive than others, but still it's important to get all views on this topic. One of the purposes of my blog about our massive preparations was to provoke a bit, because sometimes you have to push the limits of the rules, to be able to make some changes...

Most of the first comments discussed sprint in general, and I must say that I agree that the sprint has developed to be a totally different disciplin than normal forest orienteering, with different demands, and shouldn't try to replace it. Still I really like the different challenges a city-sprint gives, and I like the idea about splitting up WOC into a Sprint-WOC and Forest-WOC. Then it would be possible to find the areas suited best for both of the disciplines, and hopefully also make it more attractive to organize a WOC. I also don't think that the sprint is better suited to make our sport more popular than forest orienteering, but it's a good supplement, and we should make use of every possibilty we have to make our sport bigger. I don't think that fx cross-country skiing got smaller when biathlon was introduced or volleyball got smaller when beachvolley was introduced. And all the sports are now a part of the olympics.

The comment about us cheating and comparing us to Lance Armstrong (!) was maybe too much, but the comment about that we should have been disqualified according to the rules, because we had more knowledge about the terrain than others, is what this is all about.
There is no doubt that all particiapants are trying to get more information about the terrain and possible courses than the others, to get an advantage. In both sprint and forest-disciplines. Like all participants are trying to train harder and more specific than the others to get a physical advantage.
Did I forget to mention that the Danish Team also trained very specificly on the physical demands in Venice?
Interval-training on a route with stairs up and down,  a lot of sharp turns and control punching. Explosive strength-training and speed-training on stairs and flat. Heat-training every day the last 3 weeks, to get used to the hot and humid conditions in Venice. Several days with two sprints in full speed, to get used to perform the best in the final, few hours after the qualification. Is that cheating as well?

The difference between sprint and forest-disciplines is that you have much more tools to get information about the sprint, and it's even possible to make a pretty accurate map, without even having been there. And if someone should be in doubt, I'm not the first who have made a map of a WOC-sprint terrain. Every year different people and nations are trying to get an advantage by doing this and amongst most elite orienteers it's just considered as good preparations, not cheating.  

Since my last blog WOC 2015 Bulletin 2 has been published and now everyone knows in which towns the Sprint-relay and Individual Sprint will be. The areas are different than Venice and even though the Google Streetview is quite good in both towns, making accurate maps would be more difficult. But "luckily" the organizers (or IOF) have permitted access to the towns (why?), and even though you are not allowed to carry a map in the embargo, my guess is that I can still memorize most of it with some touring around. And making a map should be quite easy even though it would take some time...

I don't understand why they organizers are making it so easy for us to prepare and know exactly what the challenges will be.

First of all, why are they permitting access to the towns? I have no idea why it's necessary. Anyone who knows? And can you go anywhere, or is it just on paved roads? You don't really know because it doesn't say in the bulletin. Like in Palmela (EOC 2014 sprint town), my guess is that someone will stay on paved roads, others will just go everywhere, eventually others will find out that someone went everywhere, and so on. Even some nations lived inside the embargo at EOC, getting a possible advantage of others.

Someone suggested that the areas of the sprint should be kept a secret, and it's a interesting idea, but I don't really know if it's possible to keep it a secret? I would rather embargo a lot of areas, even different kinds of sprintterrains (forest, town, park etc), and maybe not announce the locations until the last bulletin some days before WOC. If 10-20 areas are embargoed, I would maybe look a bit on google street-view of the different areas (if possible), but I wouldn't try to make maps. Instead I think my preparations would be more general, trying to be good at all possible challenges.

At least we need some more clear rules both for the organizers, but also for the athletes, of what is allowed and not. And I don't think you can make it a break of rules to look at google streetview?

Just make it more difficult for the athletes to prepare...





  



9 comments:

HeleneSuzanne said...

We Brits have developed a kind of natural immunity to midge-bites, I can even repel the male midges, which saves some blood volume.

But I hear that there are plans for a Scottish midge-simulation chamber in Århus.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/scotland-faces-bumper-year-for-bloodsucking-midges-after-exceptionally-wet-winter-9199282.html

Laurence Quinn said...

I do not, for one second consider, your team's preparations to be cheating. Everybody knows that preparations for sprint have been going on for years, Fabian Hertner's map from Trondheim for example. All the top teams do it and I do not think other athletes lack of preparations were for ethical reasons.

I defend you because the rules, as they currently stand, do not really address the issue. Yes there are wishy-washy rules about familiarity with terrain etc. but there need to be rules directly addressing the issue we currently discuss. Does anybody really feel that if there were new rules which clearly forbid such preparations that the Danish team would have undertaken such preparations? Of course not. The Danish team did something they considered fair, something a lot of other top athletes/teams do too, only they did it better.

However I do not like athletes being prepared in such a way. I have a huge respect for all elite orienteers. While spectating you are witnessing a magnificent performance, their physical and technical skills are incredible. But there is the catch. The best orienteer should possess the best balance between physical and technical skills. I don't think Soren read his map that much as he said he knew the best route choices. As a spectator the admiration of the technical skills is lost and this, for me at least, is a large part of why I watch. When all the top athletes know the area and just need to run, I do not have any real interest.

So what to do? That is a tough question, probably impossible to find a satisfactory answer.
Build an area? Every time you want to have a sprint event? I don't see how that is possible, it just looks like one huge added expense to me.
Also I don't know if the idea of keeping it a secret could work. Such an event takes huge preparation with many individuals. Not just orienteers, police, ambulance, TV crew. Once people know it is possible for people who shouldn't know to find out.

Blair Trewin said...

I've been working on an open discussion paper for the IOF Foot O Commission on exactly this subject - will be putting it out there as soon as I finalise a few details.

(One thing that's immediately obvious is that Laurence is right - the infrastructure involved in a modern WOC is far too extensive for it to be possible to keep it secret).

Terje Mathisen said...

As both Blair and Laurence have mentioned, it is impossible to keep the target areas secret, but you can do as Tue suggest, i.e. embargo a number of areas to reduce the expected payoff from StreetView and map construction.

I still admire what the Danes did: They spent a lot of time working completely within the rules, in order to prepare as well as possible.

With open LiDAR data the same situation exists to some degree for forest orienteering, i.e. thousands of runners had downloaded and looked at the maps Jarkko and I made of this year's Jukola terrain, but this still provides far less information than an old map of the same or nearby terrain.

For the sprint discipline I believe Finland have come up with the only fair workaround, i.e. artificial fences: WOC last year was probably about right, while the World Cup in Imatra this year was just ridiculous: This was a labyrinth exercise and not route finding as we know it.

Eva Jurenikova said...

Thanks, Tue, for sharing your thoughts about the sprint-challenges and details of your WOC-preparations. I agree basically with everything what you have written.
I believe that improving the terrain with artificial fences is a way to go (even if Imatra was a bit of overkill).
If an area is open for "tourism" like at WOC2015, it has negative impact on my motivation. I hate walking around in a terrain in which I am supposed to run later on. However, I do not perceive preparations with google and old maps in the same way. It is available for everybody and you do not have to travel anywhere.
I am also a bit careful what/how much I do - not to make my mind inflexible. It has happened to me that I made too fast decisions during a race based on what I remembered from my theoretical preparations and missed that the competition map actually was different.
Sprint can be fun and challenging orienteering but it is the most difficult discipline to organize and it is not very suitable for TV-broadcasting.

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