After the hugely successful Ski-Orienteering Academy in Erzincan, Turkey on Tuesday, a hundred or so athletes arrived at the snowline to start in the WRE competition. For many, it was their first ever Ski-O race but the atmosphere at the event was one of support, excitement and smiles! The event was also the first Ski-O to be held in Turkey, and the organisers have put on a fantastic event, by far the best event I have ever attended.
The lack of snow didn’t stop the race (about 15cm), and the clear skies and warm sun brightened the day! The scooter tracks were just tracks on top of the hard snow, with many grass patches showing through. The previous warm days and cold nights have lead to the surface being solid and ‘icy’, with no powder or soft snow what-so-ever.
For me, it was the attitude of everyone at the event that made the day so amazing. Every athlete who crossed the finish line was smiling, whether they lost a pole, used alpine skis, crashed a lot, got lost, or just took a long time. The spirit of the competition wasn’t to win, but instead to have a great experience and learn something new.
With such hard tracks and snow, shortcutting was the name of the game, so by the time the late starters went out, the whole hillside was covered in tracks, footprints and ‘bombholes’ created by crashing!
Amazingly, several athletes completed the courses on alpine skis! With no ankle movement, heavy kit and 125m of climb in 2km, they must have been so tired at the end. The fastest sprint of the day actually came from a M20 who lost a pole on the course, and how he sprinted uphill in the soft snow! The foreign boys were impressed with his determination to finish. In fact, we have all be impressed and inspired by the motivation the Turkish athletes have shown to try the sport, to finish the course and to race. They’ve all had a great time, and everyone spent a couple of hours waiting for the finishers and cheering them in.
Following the race, we went to a horse competition, I’m not sure of the name, but it is a traditional sport to the region. It essentially involves chasing each other at a gallop and throwing a stick with the aim of hitting the opponent. Great fun to watch despite almost being taken out by a stray throw! We even got to sit on the horses after and ride them, for Hans Jørgen it was his first time on a horse, but he seemed to get the hang of it.
I will be sad to leave tomorrow, but we get to go to Erzurum with some of the Turkish athletes for a few weeks at high altitude which will be good fun.