Easter Prize 2021: the first knock-out sprint in Latvia

The Easter Prize, which this time took place on August 28 due to the corrections introduced by the pandemic, ended with an emotionally charged knock-out sprint competition.

Approximately 340 participants tested their strength and skills in the distances spread in the rain-soaked yards of Mežciems. The competition started with individual sprint distances for participants of all ages and skill groups, for whom it was the last opportunity of this season to accumulate the total points of the Latvian Sprint Cup. Although the distances in the vicinity of Riga built during the Soviet era were not very complicated and the running speed was very important, care had to be taken not to lose seconds or even minutes by falling into one of the traps of the distance planner.

Colin Kolbe takes advantage of the absence of Latvian national team athletes and dominates

A convincing leader in the mens' elite class appeared already in the individual sprint - the German national team runner Colin Kolbe, who currently lives in Latvia and represents Ozons. The quick orienteer, who achieved the 21st place in this year's World Championship sprint distance, used the absence of Latvian national team athletes and absolutely dominated this competition. The second position was also occupied by a foreign athlete living in Latvia - Guy Sabo Bar from Israel, who has been living in Ērgļi for several years. With this second place, the athlete of Mežmala secured the victory in the overall rating of the Latvian Sprint Cup. Fight for the third place was a very fierce competition, as four athletes finished within eight seconds, the fastest or most successful of which was Rihards Krūmiņš (Alnis OK-JNSC).

Double victory for Puķītes family

Irita Puķīte's (OK Kāpa) safe victory in the individual sprint and Elizabete Blūmentāle's (Ozons) third place were no big surprises, but Irita's daughter Laura Puķīte's (Ozons) run, which gave her the second place, was a surprise indeed! The mother-daughter double victory is something that has never happened before in Latvian orienteering!

The very first knock-out sprint in Latvia

This was the first time that a knock-out sprint competition adapted from the World Cup program took place in Latvia. The 12 best of the individual sprint course, which brought together 16-18-21E-35 groups, could qualify for the elimination sprint rounds. Then the competition took place in the semi-finals of 6, of which the 3 best in each semi-final entered the final competition. Therefore, the participants had to think not only about how to do their best race and choose the best routes, but also to consider the situation tactically. Knock-out round distances led around the immediate vicinity of Mežciems Primary School, offering participants a couple of decisive route-choice options and for spectators - the opportunity to see athletes in action several times.

Unexpected winner in the women's final

Kristīne Brunere, Anna Eleonora Freimane, Irita Puķīte, Elizabete Blūmentāle, Laura Berķe and Agnese Jaunmuktāne entered the starting line in the finals, but it was impossible to predict anything.
After starting the course through the skatepark and finding two checkpoints in the territory of the kindergarten, the time had come for the first decisive decision on the route-choice for the 5th control. Anna Eleonora Freimane and Agnese Jaunmuktāne chose the shortest, but more difficult southern variant without any delays, but the other participants of the final went north after a short pause. At this stage, Freimane took the lead, but Blūmentāle and Berķe lagged behind. Brunere and Puķīte then had to put in a serious effort to recover the lost seconds.
The next decisive moment was the tricky leg to 7th control where the finalists were surprised by the closed gates that had been open in the semi-finals. All four leaders ran into the closed gate, but Freimane understood the situation the fastest and maintained the leading position even after this mistake. Puķīte and Brunere lost more time again and again had to significantly increase their pace in the final stage of the course. Anna Eleonora Freimane took the lead at the finish, winning a historic and unexpected victory. It seemed that there would be an exciting fight for the remaining podium places between Jaunmuktāne, Brunere and Puķīte, but Irita, trying to chase the leader, was confused in the last stage of the distance, thinking that she should take another control, turned back and let the others pass. Thus, Kristīne Brunere and Agnese Jaunmuktāne divided the second and third place in the finish.

Photofinish in the men's final

The course and challenges for the men's final were the same as for the women. Andris Gailis, Rihards Krūmiņš, Jānis Baunis, Colin Kolbe, Renārs Roze and Valters Reneslācis had reached the final.
As in the previous final, the first division of the group happened at the 4th control - almost everyone chose to follow the fast Colin Kolbe, except for Renārs Roze, who alone went to the north. Once again, the northern option turned out to be a bit slower, and with this decision Roze got to the back of the group.
And once more the spectators in the center of the competition could watch the leading group of athletes run at the closed gate on the 7th leg. Once again, Roze chose his own option and improved his position to the third place and got himself involved in the finish battle for the prize-winning places. If anyone of the followers had chosen the best option - to go back from the 6th point and run all the way around the west - this one would probably have won.
Although Colbe had to work hard to keep the lead after the mistake, he succeeded and the winning couple was a couple from real life - Ozons orienteers Colin Kolbe and Anna Eleonora Freimane.
But the battle for 2.-4. place turned out to be extremely tense. Jānis Baunis lost the second position in the last stages of the distance - at first he was overtaken by Renārs Roze, but in the very finish he was also passed by Rihards Krūmiņš, who almost reached Renārs Roze with an extremely strong finish - he ended up only a few centimeters short.

Athlete comments

Anna Eleonora Freimane (5th place individually, 1st place in knock-out sprint):
“I've been waiting for this knock-out sprint for a couple of weeks now because I knew it would be impressive. I did pretty badly in the qualification - wrong route choices and stupid mistakes. I think I might not even qualify in the end, but I did. The main idea in both finals was to run my own race, which helped to win. Honestly, I was surprised to finish first, because before both elimination rounds I felt quite tired and knew that the other girls were strong. I am very pleased that a sprint of this format was organized in Latvia, because this was a good endurance and stress training.”

Colin Kolbe (1st place individually, 1st place in knock-out sprint):
“In the semi final it went quite well. I knew I was faster than the other runners, so I knew I can use that. In the final it went quite okay till the last routechoice where I overlooked a previously open fence. I got lucky there that no-one managed to get ahead of me there but I suddenly had to push really hard to come out as the winner in the finish.
Of course I was happy to win but also knew I got a bit lucky there but that´s the fun part of knock-out sprint that everything is possible (see women´s race).”

Rihards Krūmiņš (3. vieta individuāli, 3. vieta knock-out sprintā):
“Even before the race I was pretty sure I would run in the final. A stable race in the qualifying round allowed me not to run 100% at the end of the course, because I was convinced of the place among the best 12. In the semi-finals, I took the wrong route-choice to the second control, which allowed Valters and Guy to gain a 13-second lead. During the course, this advantage was almost completely diminished. Running to the penultimate point, all four of us (Valters, Guy, Jānis and I) were almost completely next to each other, but when "putting in the next gear" it was clear that Guy was not able to keep up, so top three was safe and I could finish calmly. When the maps were handed out in the final, I realized that the courses would be the same, and the tactics changed to keeping up with Colin (it looks like it was everyons tactics, except Renars). Unfortunately, at the end of the course, I arrived too late and I was already far behind the competitors, but, realizing my finish power, I tried to do what I could, and a few meters before the line I managed to overtake Jānis. I missed Renārs by maybe half a meter, maybe less, which leaves a little bitterness. All in all, I am glad that already this season I am fighting for a top placings in the elite class in every race. I had never run a knock-out sprint and thought this was a great experience that would bring an advantage in this discipline in the future. ”

Photos (Jānis Līgats): https://photos.app.goo.gl/59RRLEnqtapzPV7c8
Sprint results: https://lof.lv/seriali_rez/?id=2021040500#r
Knock-out sprint results: https://lof.lv/seriali_rez/?id=2021082800#g
All maps and some route-choices: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yxRBedytgAfWYZbx7
GPS replay: https://otracker.lt/
Video: https://youtu.be/uOESemdyk9I