MOC celebrates it’s 15th Birthday this year and it keeps getting better! The brainchild of Gabriele Viale, the event is being held in welcoming Malta for 2019, an island not familiar to Orienteering.
Supported by the Maltese Ministry of Sport and Tourism of Malta, FISO (Italian Orienteering Federation) and IOF, the event has attracted over 300 entries from all around the globe: AUS, NZL, USA, HKG, MALTA, NOR, SWE, DEN, FIN, GBR, POL, TUR, LAT, EST, LTU, SUI, GER, SVK, AUT, IRE, ITA, BEL, CZE, FRA, LUX, RUS – puts the count up at 26 nations.
The first race of the weekend was rather special and not part of the scoring part of MOC (which will be the accumulated times of the 2 races in the capital Valletta on Saturday and Sunday.) Buskett Gardens provided a unique challenge of tricky, technical orienteering and running. As one of the few woodlands on Malta, it contains broad-leaved deciduous woodland, native coniferous woodland with sclerophyllous garrigue and maquis shrubland, as well as groves of fruit trees. These covered the valley in a series of terraces, bounded by uncrossable walls which made for some very tricky route-choice finding. Some paths were narrow, some were steep. Looking at your map was essential, along with keeping a cool head and running carefully on the native rock.
The Women’s elite race was headed by Lizzie Ingham, wearing her native black of New Zealand out of respect for the sad recent events in Christchurch, New Zealand. She was over 90 seconds clear of Aleksandra Hornik POL in second place, who is currently ranked 20th in the World at Sprint Orienteering, and the highest World ranked women at Buskett currently. There was only 2 and 3 seconds to the 3rd and 4th places; Jenni Eriksson SWE and Anna Simkovics AUT.
In the Men’s elite race, World Ranked #25 Peter Hodkinson GBR took the victory by 51 seconds. He commented, “I was expecting a bit of a mental race and it was just what we got!” There was little chance to relax as the race was physically and mentally intense. There was thick native vegetation to fight through, narrow passages to find, slippery slopes and steps to negotiate, and dodging other competitors running in the other direction. Rarely did you have to run on the red line. Routes had you running wide left or right to get to the next control. Second placer and still a Junior was Aston Key from Australia, running with a cap on back to front! It was a race where nobody had a clean run and Aston lost time at many controls, but the key was keeping these time losses to a minimum. As soon as alarm bells started to ring, stop, look at the map, correct yourself. Planning ahead was also a great time-saver. Chris Smithard GBR took the bronze 2 minutes behind Aston in what many described as an unforgettable race.
Results with splits can be found here – https://www.orienteering.it/…/SPORTident-results-Stage-1.pdf
As the sun set, thoughts turned to day two and a more traditional Sprint in Valletta at Bormla Città Cospicua. Starts from 1530…