JEC course setter - all the truth (07.10.2018)
Kategorie: Wettkämmpfe
Karte/Gebiet: Bretaye
The JEC long distance ended in a dramatic way. Not as expected. As a course setter, I invested several hundreds of hours for this competition, including the national event on the same day. In the next lines, I just want to clarify what happens and what I live during this crazy day.

After a short night, the control setters and I are ready for the last JEC competition. Just after a beautiful sunrise behind the mountains, we begin to set sport ident units. Almost no cloud on the horizon, wonderful autumnal colors, quiet nature and technical orienteering. What a feeling I had by running through the terrain.

Mass start is approaching; I will stay in the changeover arena to check that everything is working well in the beginning and then move to the finish line. What a feeling to see all these runners preparing for this race. When the M20 are starting, the emotion is quite high. The W20 just follow 5 minutes later. After some minutes, the first runner is coming in the arena. Alone. Forkings seem to work well :-). I enjoy the spectacle in the arena. A bit later, I stop and save a swedisch runner who took the map of the third lap instead of the second one. I’m waiting to see which route the runner will chose to the last control. The first woman is running up the ski slope, that choice works.

Suddenly, I saw several W20 running through the forbidden arena. I haven’t expected it. Without waiting, I just sprint out the arena to catch them and to take their start numbers. Some of them lost it and I have to ask them. I’m glad that all the runners answer me. The flow of W20 running on this path is not stopping. I’m quite shocked. How can it be that so many athletes run through this forbidden arena? I immediately send the number bibs of the disqualified athletes to the finish arena. Some M20 are also running on the forbidden path. The list of disqualified athletes is dramatically growing. I felt guilty, what did I wrong? Is the map bad printed? Not possible, we checked all of them, one after the other. I move back to the start arena, another people of the organization wrote the start numbers. We check our list, all numbers are matching together. Now W18 and M18 are coming in the forbidden arena. What is going on? Instead of enjoying the finish, I’m disqualifying runners one after the other.

Some control setters come to me, they don’t understand either, they checked the map again and they all think it’s clear. The course setting was controlled by several experienced people and nobody told me that this big forbidden area may lead to so many problems. I’m so sad. I ask me what I should have done such that this situation doesn’t happen. At this moment, I receive a call from live results team. The jury thinks that it wasn’t clear on the map. All the national trainers as well as the JEC event director decided together not to disqualify any athletes and to stop the race at the second last control. I can’t believe it. This is nonsense. The running order at some random control during a mass start race has no meaning for the final results. A runner at the end of a pack, preparing the route choice (and seeing the forbidden area) is not fighting for a place at this moment of the race. Moreover this control was a refreshment point, so if one drinks before punching, he may lose the podium. Ridiculous.

I speak with a lot of other runners, some well-known retired swiss orienteers and everybody says me that it’s clearly forbidden. I still feel bad. I see a lot of happy runners finishing the national race congratulating me for the course setting, saying that the terrain was wonderful. But I can’t enjoy it. I don’t even see the JEC finish line. Later in the evening I still can’t think about something else, I’m literally destroyed.

So what happens? The jury was composed of 2 national trainers and the national advisor. A majority of trainers!?! How can the jury take objective decisions if its majority is directly concerned by the athlete disqualification? I should have thought about it, when I read the bulletin 4 before the publication. I should have asked about that point. I can now say this is my biggest mistake. I heard that they think that the decision of stopping the race at the second last control was the fairest one. Wtf. Some athletes who did alright were penalized because others didn’t respect the rules! Is that fair? I heard things like: there are juniors, it’s better to find a solution which is not so bad for everybody. I have been a junior, I have been running JEC 4 times as athlete and I can say you, these athletes are taking the competition seriously, they trained hard for that, they aren’t children. Such compromises have nothing to do with high level competition sport.

The jury (at least its majority...) said it wasn’t clear on the map. I hadn’t the strength of reading again carefully ISOM 2017 on Sunday evening, neither on Monday. But on Tuesday, I fell finally better, so it was time to clarify the situation. Dear athletes and coaches, this is what ISOM says: “All overprint symbols shall be printed over the map content (transparently). They shall never mask out other map details”. Transparently! Don’t say it’s not clear, these are rules. After the race, I thought that I should maybe have hidden the symbols below the forbidden area to make it clearer. But no, ISOM doesn’t allow it. “No line indicates no marking in the terrain”. I was thinking about putting tapes in the terrain but it was problematic with the national race using the same area. And the forbidden area was so big and several centimeters long over a path (well over the minimum area of 2x2mm), that it seemed quite clear for me. Following the ISOM still doesn’t seem to be clear enough.

I read what some athletes wrote on the social networks. Really few were happy with the decision, except the ones who runs through the forbidden area. I read funny numbers like 60% of runners have been running through the forbidden area. If you don’t know the number, please don’t publish wrong information. I have the numbers. 73 athletes (of 246) should have been disqualified. It’s less than 30%. It’s a lot but it’s a clear minority. A lot of them were running in pack and therefore seems to follow the pack leader. It’s probably the first part of the explanation. I thought a lot about the reasons. The small rectangle cut off in the forbidden area was done to put the control number on the first two loops. I could have exported all the variants in different OCAD files and correct that for the last loop but I had enough other important things to prepare before the competition. Moreover the embargoed area is still broad enough on the path east from the cut off. I did another cut off along the control line to improve the readability. It was probably a little bit too broad. But I sincerely don’t think that 2 mm of supplementary forbidden area on a total area of several centimeters would have changed something. A high number of athletes don’t seem to know the rules accurately enough.

I have been really sad. But when I definitely realized, I strictly respected the ISOM 2017 and I saw how many runners have been disappointed by the decision, I feel angry. As I had no power of decision (I was anyway not consulted at all before the decision), I’m only able to do one thing: publish the results like they should have been. Here is the link:

Dear national coaches, you destroyed my day, my work, the results of a lot of athletes as well as their training and preparation for this competition. How can you prepare your athletes for high level if you protect them when they don’t respect the rules?

Dear athletes who respected the rules and were penalized by the final decision, I feel so sad for you. I would do everything possible to change this situation. I’m just powerless. I hope you enjoyed the race before the decision. As a runner, I had a lot of injuries but I always came back. As a course setter, I lived a real nightmare, it will take time but I hope to come back again. We should try to remember the good moments of that day, the challenging orienteering and the nice terrain instead of just speaking about that stupid decision. I hope all of you learn something from this competition. Dear athletes, don’t give up, train hard, fight again injustice and enjoy orienteering life.

And finally, thanks a lot to every person supporting me in the last days. After writing my thought and my opinion, I can close the book and think about normal life again.
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JEC course setter - all the truth (07.10.2018)