After a sensational 3rd place at BUCS in March, ShUOC felt well placed to represent GB&NI on the World (by which I mean European) Stage. So confident in fact we left two thirds of our A team at home.
To St. Gallen, Switzerland we travelled, to the historic (est. 2019) European University Sports Association (EUSA) Orienteering Champs or EUOC. Not to be confused with EUOC. Or indeed EUOC.
How would we compare against the best of Europe's elite educational establishments? (those that had realised the competition existed anyway)
Would the hills of the Steel City have prepared us for steep alpine terrain?
Does Switzerland even exist?
Time to find out...
Harry arrived first in St. Gallen, having elected to take the train for reasons of eco smugness and to perform some tourism en route. The sun was beating down on a shiny city centre that reeked of watch-making wealth (approx. 90% of swiss GDP). He was soon joined by Dom in our toasty hotel room then by OUOC for a chaotic all-you-can-see buffet tea at the nearby supermarket complex. "Please only come back for more food 3 or 4 times" we were implored.
Meanwhile the rest of ShUOC were attending an impromptu bird funeral at Gatwick. They did eventually arrive, by which point it was...
Breakfast - an opportunity to start Czeching out the competition - then we headed to the model area, undeterred by scathing reviews from those who'd already been.
After recovering from initial shock that up was in fact down on this area, down we went: to fake some footage for the insta (#slavetothesocials), stumble across a few kites, and brush up on our knollege of the terrain.
But what are the mystery blue star map symbols you ask? Well that would be telling...
No orienteering training would be complete without a swim so we took a bus to St Gallen's answer to Crookes Valley Park. A far superior answer as it happens. Complete with very entertaining log.
But the fun times were only just getting started... bring on the first General Technical Meeting. We only needed to send one representative, so naturally to assert our numerical dominance, we sent eight. After a "punklich" start, the organisers laid down the law: there would be no national flags on the podium, no nudity, and no scraps. Plus the key aims of EUSA:
"We are here now"
"We are growing up"
"I'm not responsible for your problems during the night".
By the way, bids are still open for the 2025 champs... Sport Sheffield you listening?
Finally what we'd all been waiting for: the opening ceremony! Captain El "head of delegation" Ellis proudly carried the banner for ShUOC. Then after the obligatory dose of self-congratulation by the invited bureaucrats, there was the obligatory dose of "culture" as St. Gallen Jodelchörli performed their excellent yodel songs. With uplifting "bim bom"s in our hearts it was onto...
First up the qualifying heats - who would be in Pole position for the final?
ShUOC executed the perfect strategy for getting back early for tea by landing zero runners in the A Final. More stair-training needed on the ShUOC weekly training schedule perhaps? Alice exhibited most dedication to the cause by making two unnecessary laps of a building on her way out of number 7. Maya gave us a close scare by being within one place of the A Final.
Afternoon, the rain showers came to lubricate the steps of St. Gallen Altstadt (old town). Fortunately everyone Finnish-ed in one piece. Although El is going to Hell thanks to her flawless negotiation with a street preacher. I'm pretty sure Hell's only a town in Switzerland anyway...
Middle distance... Proper orienteering time :) The real test of whose compass work israel-ly good and whose contouring iS-painful to watch.
An early start (cheers El Capitan) on board the "lanky tram" to Gais.
We were feeling Hungary for victory. Or was it lunch? I forget. Anyway, we checked our swiss-german horoscopes in the local paper, tag-teamed the sudoku and were good to go...
Our elite dynamic duo: Dom "that reentrant was probably as deep as me" Green and El "I like going in first" Ellis were given GPS vests to track their rapid progress through the surprisingly tasty, albeit vertiginous, terrain. I enjoyed a clean run navigationally though my legs felt like used frubes every time I turned uphill. This seemed true of most ShUOCers, except Alice "I'm only a fell runner" Gamble, who eats unnecessary extra climb for breakfast.
Best run of the "woman course" was Maya "no chance am I writing her full surname every time" HW and in the men was Adam "got a massive toe" Conway.
Joke of the day goes to Misi from Imperial-sincewhendidtheyhaveanOclub?-College: What do you call a cow in an igloo?
Sprint relays: Two by two...
A fitting race format for the day the weather got biblical. Thus far Thor's wrath had been confined to the evenings but today he'd heard Noah was in town (or at least Noa from Technion Institute of Technology) so the rains came pouring.
First to take on the narrow alleys of Appenzell were the Men-Men teams: Adam "interesting" Conway handing over to ...and being handed back to and then handing over to again... Dom "well the ball's in me isn't it?" Green, while Harry was handing over to team German expert Evan "sick's just food waste with extra steps" Bowers.
I'd better give CUOC's James Ackland and Pete "this ain't my first rodeo" Molloy some credit here for doing quite well in this race as I'm sure they were too humble to splash it over social media.
In the Woman-Woman, queen of the run-ins Maya was in the driving seat of the leg 1 pack (assuming she drives a canal boat), running undercover on El's dibber. Eleanor Hampshire Ellis then fired up the afterburners (it's an aerospace thing) and they stormed in to finish first British team. And well within the top 95% overall.
Finally the Woman-Men class into which Alice "can we run over the yellow bits?" Gamble had been placed with a new Polish friend, up against OUOC's cute couples: captains of chaos Lois and Sam, and siblings Alex and Ryan "my mouth's the one thing that's not small" Elliot.
Luckily they put a GPS on the Gamster so we could watch her stunning progress through the pack, hot on the heels of the AebersoldtheirsoulsforaEUOCmedal siblings. And afterwards providing the insights as ever: "It was very damp. I was running a lot faster today though".
Racing complete, all that remained was the closing ceremony and banquet. After the stunt cheerleading, rousing speech from organiser-heartthrob Mr Daniel Studer and of course singalong rendition of What a Wonderful World the party could really get started... or so we thought
What we would call classic British bangers was what the well known Aebersold brother wanted, instead we got bass and rave. Numerous attempts made by both the elite and the UK to change the music was quickly dismissed by DJ Raven. Instead the party turned to inside volleyball and dance circles.
The night drew in and slowly we all left the party house and returned back to the hotel, to wake up 6:30hrs later to head back to the airport.
Huge thanks to our Head of Delegation Fi for all the orienteering advice and insight, to Alice and Sophie/Scarlet for the pre-trip admin, the organisers and volunteers of EUOC for the great event, and Riccardo Cassanova for the good times.