Maybe I'm not understanding you but I think a lot of people agree with you. There are always external pressures at major events, and a great athlete is perhaps one who is able to think about it and approach it like any other day. The individual athlete can do this, but they can't remove the external view that it is a high-pressure event.
I think there are two possible reactions to pressure. There is the positive of using the heightened stress to aid in focus. There is the negative of letting the heightened stress distract your focus. Some athletes respond better to pressure than others and it is largely mental discipline that determines that.
I think in precision/concentration type sports (gymnastics, figure skating, archery, etc.) the risk of the negative is very high and the upside of the positive is pretty small. In pure strength/speed sports (100m, weightlifting, etc.) the opposite is true. Orienteering requires both, so the possible affect of pressure is probably pretty broad.
With a young athlete, I'd definitely agree with Spike that it's best to get yourself out of that space and try to focus on doing things you already know how to do well. As an athlete gets more accustomed to such situations, learning to feed off the pressure is a useful skill.
Cristina, you might be right. A decade ago, I made the same point and got a bunch of push back (mostly people talking about how essential WOC experience was to performing well at a WOC).
Ebuckley, I agree in theory, but in practice I think there are very few people who are able to harness "pressure." It is a bit like clutch baseball players. They might exist, but it is really hard to find them if you look systematically.
In a sport like orienteering a lot of what might seem "clutch" is just really good preparation.
Yes, baseball is in the precision/concentration category, so I would expect it to be very hard to find clutch players (and easy to find players who choke). In running, there are many examples of people who lift their game for big meets well beyond what could be reasonably attributed to taper (drug usage does offer a competing explanation). Orienteering is between the two.
New research on the kinds of stress and their utility:
Ah, the number of times I blew up at control 2 of team trials compared to how well I was running at local races... The story of my M21 days....
Unfortunately I think the pressure of JWOC is here to stay. Pressure is directly related to the desire to perform well (one's own desire to perform well creates internal pressure and friends', family's and the public's desire or expectation for an athlete to perform well creates external pressure). If we don't want our athletes to be performing well and wanting to be performing well then what are we doing sending athletes to JWOC?
I therefore think we shouldn't be pretending that there isn't pressure but rather teaching that pressure isn't something that affects your performance unless you let it by focusing on it.