World Cup turns into Golden League…
Sandra here: I have doing a lot of thinking about the World Cup selection process for 2007. I have to say it really frustrates me. The US is slowly getting better as a nation, we have athletes who are motivated, some are even moving to Europe to have more opportunities to train/race, others are working hard at home to become better. Everyone wants a chance at gaining valuable experience in the international circuit, but now we are only allowed 1 women and 1 man in the World Cup races!!! What an absolute tragedy.
Why are we being pushed out for being a "less developed" nation? How can it be fair to rank a nation on 4 World Ranking Events, when most nations who are outside of Europe, or nations with limited financial funding, only have 2-3 events a year at home. The US only has 4 women and 3 men who have 4 World Ranking Event points in the last year, and we are being ranked by our top 20(!!) men and women. It's no wonder that JPN, CAN, CHN, POL, BEL, IRL, NED, ROM, UKR (only to name a few) fall under the same status. We will all ONLY be able to send 1 man and 1 woman to next years World Cup races. I don't necessarily have a problem with the idea that the better nations get to send more athletes than the lower ranked nations, but I feel like reducing some nations down to 1 athlete is far too extreme. This is just the beginning of a negative spiral. Of course we are allowed to race in WREs, and potentially increase our ranking that way, but most non European nations only come over to Europe for the "big" events. American orienteers are limited to the WRE that are organized at home. And even in the US or Canada, the distance that the athletes have to travel to get to a WRE is probably farther than most Europeans have to travel for their races as a whole. Being from a country where funds are also limited, the athletes themselves are paying their travel expenses.
Even if a lower ranked nation moves up in the rankings, there will always be some nations who are only allowed one runner in the World Cup. That will always be too little for any nation that falls into that spot.
What about those non-European nations who have athletes that live in Europe but now cannot take part in the World cup? These athletes are making compromises (moving away from home) in order to be closer to the World cup/World Champs races, but are being limited by the current ranking of their nation as a whole.
Will the World Cup turn into a European Cup??
Besides my own concerns (personal, as well as, in the interest of US orienteering in the future), it seems that the system is flawed; take some examples from the discussion at www.attackpoint.org:
"Russia is 13th, behind countries such as Hungary, Austria, and Germany. Lithuania is way down there too.... I don't think IOF thought this through very well. And what's the intent, anyway? Is it killing off competitive orienteering in the countries where it's already dying?"
"As of today France would get 9 spots and Ukraine 1 in the men's class. The 9th Frenchman is in the 205th spot on the world ranking and in whereas the 2nd Ukrainian is 59th but is out of the world cup (3rd Ukrainian in spot 69 and 4th in 131 but likewise out). That's an extreme case of the stupidity in the rules."
Concerns from other athletes:
"Allotment of runners per nation: My main problem with the proposed system is that I think 1-2 runners for a nation is too few. I don't have problems with the larger nations having more runners, if this is what is necessary to ensure that all potential medal winners have the chance to participate in World Cups and WOC. (Whether it is necessary to increase the numbers to 8-10 to achieve this is another story). For the smaller countries where Elite orienteering is already struggling to survive, or on the verge of breaking through to the next level (hopefully we're in the latter category) these rule changes could be the kiss of death. Sending runners to World Cups gives important motivation and experience to be able to develop to the next level. Keeping the smaller/non-European countries warm should be a main goal of the IOF if they truly wish to increase the strength of Elite Orienteering internationally. I can see no good argument for limiting the numbers of the smaller nations, as long as there still are A and B finals."
"The Russia/Lithuania situation mentioned shows one of the weaknesses with the proposed system. Runners from those countries usually don´t travel much to anything except the bigger championships events (often caused by lack of funding), but they should still be up with the best in the rankings. Maybe this can give some countries/runners an extra motivation to actually travel - but if the money isn´t available... One other thing - why use top 20? To me it seems only the Scandinavian countries (and maybe a few others) even have that many runners that have taken part in 4 WREs? Would the list look very much different if fewer runners were included? Australia, New Zealand and all of Asia could also be losers in the long run with this system."
"Australia is looking pretty good on this list (somehow?), but it is a major problem for us. We have a country geographically the size of Europe, and have only 3 races. Most of us have to travel 6000km just to compete in the Australian Championships on the west coast this year. Then if we want more than 3 races we have to travel overseas, New Zealand isn’t that far away comparatively but it gets pretty expensive chasing WRE’s. After our best runners chase WRE’s its time to travel to Europe for the World Cup races, which is a $1 500 US airfare and a 24 hour flight. It’s unsustainable. I’m sure all non European countries have the same problem."