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Discussion: Start list - new rule

in: Orienteering; General;

Jan 31, 2012 11:28 PM # 
A new rule in updated version of WRE Guidelines.

A bad rule at least for us. Our championships rule says that all foreign competitors must start first because of fairness among domestic runners who fight for championship title. Championship races have other more crucial benefits for the runners than WRE points.

I would be very surprised in this kind of an example if any runner make a protest after the end of the event because of a slightly moderated start list. On the other hand if we respect the WRE guidelines than we will for sure get a protest from domestic clubs.

So we are forced to change our rules or to allocate WRE status to other lower event as it is national cup event or maybe even to one of the tourist summer events.

Do you also have any conflicts with domestic rules?
Feb 1, 2012 8:40 AM # 
I'm pretty sure that this rule has been around for a long time........

In my personal experience I think that this has very little effect on the REAL result, and only effects countries where the runners of the nation are specially weak, and good followers.

In Austria we have used both rules in the past, and it has never actually effected the results either way. Those that are fastest win and those that are not fast enough don't. And the WRE rule is far fairer to all concerned.

I agree with the rule and think it should stay.
Feb 1, 2012 11:18 AM # 
What is the rule we're talking about?
Feb 1, 2012 11:44 AM # 
From the guidelines (found

4. Start lists
The start draw for each (Men and Women) elite course should be based on the World Rankings as at
a date determined by the organisers, which should be at least 21 days before the date of the race.
The best ranked runner should start last on each elite course1.
Sometimes a Federation chooses its National Championships for a WRE. This is acceptable provided
that the event is truly “open”, in particular, that a “foreign” competitor is treated no differently from a
“home” competitor when the Start lists are drawn up.
Where numbers enforce an elite class to be split into two, then the World Rankings should be used to
determine how the entry is divided, the best going to the top elite class, etc.
Please note that the rankings list on any chosen date in the past may be accessed via
Feb 1, 2012 12:17 PM # 
• “should” refers to statements where it is strongly advised that they are followed

I've understood "should" differently until I read Foreword. Since this rule is not mandatory for the organizer then I think it is OK. Organizing "open" WRE event (i.e. runners from any Federation can compete) has very little with how start list is drawn. I would rather see WRE Guidelines as mandatory rules and all recommendations "should" rules in appendix for more clarity.
Feb 1, 2012 1:49 PM # 
The United States team trials are often in conjunction with a WRE. They also prefer not to have foreign competitors (or even domestic ones who simply don't want to be on the team) mixed in with the team trial competitors. So there is a similar conflict in rules and guidelines.
Feb 1, 2012 1:53 PM # 
You've got to determine what's more important, your national champs or the WRE. If the latter then either change your ways or move it to non national champs event. easy.
in previous discussions I've been informed that the word 'should' from a governing body is a requirement and not open to any ambiguity otherwise!
Feb 1, 2012 2:48 PM # 
So, is it your opinion that for the purpose of determining a national champion, having your "home " athletes mixed in with foreigners would be unfair and give an invalid result, but for the purpose of earning WRE points for them, it would be okay?
Feb 1, 2012 3:01 PM # 
@jj that would be my opinion, National Champion should be a big honour, fairness should matter. Ranking points are a bit of fun.
Feb 1, 2012 3:23 PM # 
There are several (not a lot of) rules in the Handbook that don't make sense, and I as an Adviser will not enforce them because enforcement, in my opinion, would be detrimental to the success of the scheme. Common sense should trump other considerations; if there is no desire to produce WREs because of one or two requirements that impose undue labor on the organizers, or detract from the event value for the competitors, then there will be no points, as opposed to borderline valid—and perhaps very valid, within statistical error—points.
Feb 1, 2012 3:46 PM # 
Hmmm. Sanctioning imposed this rule on the upcoming US champs / team trials / WRE combo. Interesting to see that others disagree. Here there are three sets of conflicting rules: the WRE rules want everyone mixed randomly, US champs rules want eligible competitors (including team trials competitors and others) separated from ineligible competitors, and team trials usually have all their competitors separated from the everyone else. We went with 'mixed randomly.'
Feb 1, 2012 4:28 PM # 
@jjcote not sure if your comment is aimed at me? I think the purpose of a national championship should be exactly that, and not a WRE as you are mixing national with international. Having your main selection race (probably the best idea) or some other big event as a WRE makes more sense than your national champs.
Feb 1, 2012 6:05 PM # 
I totally agree with graeme however I was in big dilema when we organized National sprint championships+WRE. We used WRE rule (Federation agreed) because it fit into our promo and media plan. Because we didn't want to compromise fairness of National champs we used 2' interval and common alternating start for Men and Women Elite. Elite started with 30' delay after everyone has already finished. In this way we increased the media focus on each athlete and it was also fun to see how tension in the audience was growing when the best athletes was coming to the start. We had quite a lot of additional work to prepare this kind of start list but we did it because we wish to present orienteering to media also as a very serious competitive elite sport.

If the organizer really want to highlight elite runners then start list for Elite classes should be prepared separately from the start list for the other categories. At how many WREs we have had this kind of start list? Runners in recreational and youth categories should have a chance to watch, listen or to see the best at start, spectator control and in finish. But today we normally run at WREs all classes together in the same way as we do at our normal events because it is easier for the organizer. In case of too low interest from media for the race or in case that organizer interest to make a show is not big enough (live audio/results or live video/gps,..) then it is really irrelavant who start last. I've competed at many WRE events where I "feel" WRE only when I read the bulletin. I don't see that WRE should stand only for techical quality of the race but also for media quality of the race. And here IOF can't find (they even don't do nothing) a suitable rules to push WRE scheme forward.

@jj I don't see why Open WRE results would be unfair if foreign athletes start first.
Feb 1, 2012 7:04 PM # 
But if there's something unfair about mixing everyone together for national championship purposes, wouldn't that suggest that there's also something unfair about mixing everyone together for WRE purposes?
Feb 1, 2012 7:19 PM # 
In any given race, there is always a chance that a strong runner will happen to be passed by a good orienteer and get led to a control or two or more at a critical time. That might impact the results of that one race, but over a long series (WRE, national rankings), those lucky happenings should in theory even out. But when a single race is used for team selection (say for WOC team) or for a one-day national championship, then there is perhaps more of a desire for that kind of luck to be less of a factor.

While orienteering is at its essence a sport of "skill, not luck", it is always impossible to eliminate luck entirely: who you happen to see at a critical time, a sudden change in weather conditions, a glance in the right direction at just the right time; a trip on a loose rock or animal hole ... you can't compensate for everything.

But, we don't decide to do away with single race championships or team selections because of luck; on the other hand there is a desire to try to manage those luck factors that are subject to human control, such as start order and seeding.
Feb 1, 2012 9:21 PM # 
Is there an assumption that there is something "different" about runners from other countries, such that encountering one of them in the forest imparts a different sort of luck than encountering someone from one's own country?
Feb 1, 2012 9:37 PM # 
The assumption, as I understand it, is that a situation in which A and B are both from the country of which the Championship is being contested, and A happens to be aided by C, who is from Norway, and B is not, is a situation that would not occur if C were from the same country as A and B, for there aren't any people as fast as C among Championship-eligible runners.
Feb 1, 2012 10:37 PM # 
I suppose the same should apply in the opposite case, though, right? If the Norwegian Champs are a WRE, they should be allowed to pile all of the Norwegian runners together early on, and have the people from other countries run later. So as to not have the Norwegians get stuck bumping into only slow people.

(Although in a country like the USA, a runner is more likely to be able to make effective use of an encounter with another American than a Norwegian who will be out of sight in no time.)
Feb 1, 2012 11:10 PM # 
I thought that this is obviously. A and B race for two final results and C only for Open result. As mikeminium said "we could try to manage those luck factors". And yes, we exclude also all domestic non-eligible runners so start list at championship races is fair as much as possible for all domestic eligible runners no matter if the race count for WRE or not. It would be also possible that foreign athlete start after last domestic runner with the time gap for at least 15-20'. But it is easier that all start first and that's why I' ve never understood why e.g. Norwegian runner can be a Swedish champion. Where is here a national pride (Swedish)?

I've got a feeling that new rule wants to say that this is good for promotion of athletes and World Rankings. People normally understand promotion as a little bit wider concept but I don't see any concept (obligatory tasks for organizer, adviser or IOF) at all.
Feb 1, 2012 11:14 PM # 
The basic intent of the guideline is that runners from all countries should be treated equally in a WRE - the implication of that is that if there's a particular event where a country wants to give its runners special treatment then they should put something else forward as a WRE. There have been some variations on the theme which still met the test of treating all highly-ranked runners equally (e.g. at the 2011 Oceania Championships, the 15 highest-ranked runners filled the last 15 start places, but in random order - this also prevented having the same start order in several successive events).

Whilst it may not be the case in most North American (or Australian) terrain, there are certainly terrains where starting early is a significant disadvantage because of tracking (long grass, bracken etc.) and it would not be fair to allocate early start times on the basis of something other than (lack of) merit.
Feb 1, 2012 11:26 PM # 
"Is there an assumption that there is something "different" about runners from other countries, such that encountering one of them in the forest imparts a different sort of luck than encountering someone from one's own country?"

Does being better count as being different?
Feb 1, 2012 11:40 PM # 
effective use of an encounter with another American

The U.S. Team Trials start rule dates back to the times when Canadians held clear superiority over U.S. runners—faster, but not so fast as to not be possible to keep up with—and the rule has this specific nation in mind. I thought I wouldn't have to state the obvious.
Feb 1, 2012 11:42 PM # 
The issue of start draws really shows the obsessive/compulsive side of orienteering organisation.
It's unfortunate where starting early is a disadvantage due to tracking: but someone has to start first - as long as the draw is random no-one should have a difficulty with that and it clearly is not a case for a protest.
It's also unfortunate where runners group and follow during a course - but the start draw has only a limited effect on that and only for the first few controls. Longer start intervals help, but again mostly in the early part of a course. Add loops and you are back to square 1.
No-one has yet mentioned weather, but it's bound to come up. That has been used as justification to shorten the start interval and force everybody in the same class to run in a short time slot. Again this is a bit like King Canute (a Viking, so at least we know where we stand) trying to impose his will on nature. It's not going to work; weather can change in a very short space of time and as an organiser you cannot ensure the same weather conditions for all runners in a class over the length of the course.
The rule to me speaks of promotion rather than fairness; IOF want the best runners to finish later, as has been explained before (see discussions on WOC) in the last 45 minutes of an event so as to fit a potential TV schedule. It apparently is out of the question that a podium placer finishes outside that 45 minute window.
Feb 2, 2012 4:10 AM # 

so the USOF rule dates from about the early 70's to present? ;-)
Feb 2, 2012 4:54 AM # 
If the results are that sensitive to the start list mixing, then as far as I'm concerned, the sport is hopelessly broken, and segregating a particular group out into a separate time window isn't really going to solve the problem. The only real solution in that case would be a mass start. I suppose the above reasoning would also throw the results of all North American Champs events into question. But I don't make the rules.

(Out of the question that a podium placer finishes early? Don't get me started on why the specified winning times for women are different than the specified winning times for men.)
Feb 2, 2012 5:32 AM # 
No, I don't think they are that sensitive. Actually I think they are as sensitive as Graeme says, and no more sensitive. However, perception is everything, and my point is, if some people are really that riled up about how sensitive they perceive the results to be to the start conditions, up to the point of not agreeing to include a WRE as part of the Trials or U.S. Champs unless the start rules are fully compliant with the latest ESC-imposed idea of fairness, then there's no point arguing with them; just let them have their way and try to squeeze in a WRE as part of a compromise solution, with the starts being done on their terms.
Feb 2, 2012 9:22 AM # 
I think they're as sensitive as graeme says too! But the key point here is not about the sensitivity, it's about whether that sensitivity affects WRE and National Champs differently. Two reasons why it does...

World ranking is about averaging over six races, National Champs is a one off race*. Following gives you *six times* more advantage in Nationals.

National Champs are about finding the National winner, WRE is for everyone. You shouldn't be able to win the National by following someone who caught you.

Incidently, are the Team Trials really trials, in the sense that someone with poor previous form who followed a foreigner to victory might not be selected? Or do the top runners get in automatically.

@jj@Nixon. Regarding better, I think the US athletes historically** have been almost as good technically but slower than the top runners - therefore unable to benefit from a tow. Contrast other nations with technically weak yet faster athletes.

* Yes, I know the US champs used to be two races, but that's unusual
** i.e. not the current women's team...
Feb 2, 2012 9:28 AM # 
The basic intent of the guideline is that runners from all countries should be treated equally in a WRE

But this is possible to achieve only with random start list. If we speak here only about fairness for all then I don’t understand why World Ranking position is fairer method than any other method. If this rule/issue is more connected with promotion (which is good) then we should speak also (more) about other promotional aspects of WREs. Start list is just one of them.

e.g. (Why IOF don't give any small gifts and diploma at WRE events - it could be a self generated diploma as we know it from Marathons; why IOF don’t award the best overall (or regions) athletes at the end of the season?; why WRE don’t promote Club rankings?; why IOF don’t award best organizers for their good organization and media coverage of the WRE race?, why media reports from EA are not part of the EA tasks ....) Is really that nothing can’t be done?

- the implication of that is that if there's a particular event where a country wants to give its runners special treatment then they should put something else forward as a WRE.

So the problem basically is not in federations. We all know that as international also national champs want to achieve some unique goals which in most cases also need special rules. So it is logical to me that if National champs are inadequate races for WRE then IOF should make a better application form and check this during the process of WRE allocation. It would be a very straight forward solution and federations would know that races with special rules will not be accepted for WRE if organizer cannot guarantee to use the rule “The best ranked runner should start last on each elite course".
Feb 2, 2012 3:52 PM # 
Or do the top runners get in automatically

They do, at the U.S. Team Trials. A single good race is not enough, but doing well in all three, or having a good prior-twelve-month ranking and two good Trials races, will get you in—there is no basis to get rejected even if you are known to have followed someone at all three races.
Feb 2, 2012 5:44 PM # 
Yes, I know the US champs used to be two races, but that's unusual

Now it's five races: 2 Classics + S, M & L. Of course, only the SMLs can be WREs.
Feb 2, 2012 8:28 PM # 
Now it's five races: 2 Classics + S, M & L. Not counting Night-O Champs and Ultra Long Champs! And since we have up to 7 races, and give away up to 6 awards, following can only help you win 1/6 of the possible awards! See, we found a way to make US Champs races less important than WRES! Go USA!

Maybe we should switch the US championship strictly over to Trail-O. Following doesn't help in Trail-O, so we would eliminate all sorts of post-race debates about fairness.... Of course, you would have to hold the championships in an air-conditioned room, and make your decisions based on computer reconstructions of idealized terrain. Unpredictable things like natural terrain, and weather, and untied shoelaces are just too dangerous to include in a fair competition.
Feb 2, 2012 11:02 PM # 
On a more serious note: seeding and country quotas at World Cup and World Games are decided based on WRE rankings, right? If a major purpose for holding the WRE is to objectively compare between different countries, it would be pretty silly to let WRE hosts apply special rules to people based on nationality.
Feb 3, 2012 10:25 AM # 
Nop, seeding method at World Cup varies from race to race. World Rankings and WCquotas are used mainly for qualification races and first race for each Wcup round but this in fact doesn't disadvantage nobody in comparison to WG. Method for country quotas at WG was changed long ago and WR is not used anymore. WOC results were used already for WG 2005/09 and good runners from small or less developed nations don’t have any chance to qualify for WG unless you are a world champion or coming from a region with no pre-qualified runners. Probably the only reason for this decision was mixed relay because with WOC q method it is easier to have more full teams able to run also mixed relay.

If a major purpose for holding the WRE is to objectively compare between different countries, it would be pretty silly to let WRE hosts apply special rules to people based on nationality.

Exactly, but in a wider view it is also a decision between IOF fee policy vs number of WREs. IOF can easily change this rule and enforce it if they would wanted to strictly follow the above purpose. But today rules allow to apply all events and to have start list based on nationality is not against the rules. Small and less developed countries have a problem here because they don’t have many good races so they can’t easily apply other races for WRE. The second problem is lack of R runners and they must put WRE on most prominent and desirable events to attract enough home and also a few foreign R runners. So the best dates are reserved for National championships. And using a WRE at National champs is also the best way to build bigger pool of home R runners. We’ve tried once something similar as GBR and NZL did it last year but with less success.
Feb 3, 2012 12:46 PM # 
We used very similar approach as GBR (+M/W18E, M/W20E) and NZL (+M/W20E) in 2010 at Cerkno cup - middle distance. Race count only for WRE and CC overall standings. No national rules were used for this race. Organizer was used same course for different classes M21E (+M20, M35 and M21A) and for W21E (+W20, W21A) and each class had a different start block. Start blocks by classes were not organized very well and also the best ranked runners didn't start at the end. 6 R runners were registered in M21E and 1 R runner in M35.

Start window by classes; start interval
M35 (0:00-26:00); 2 min
M20 (28:00-38:00); 2 min
M21A (40:00-62:00); 2 min
M21E (64:00-112:00); 3 min with few vacant places at the end and last starter on start list 15' behind the second last. Last runner didn't start because he didn't make it. He was part of the organizing team.

Splitsbrowser (there are some good examples of following within the class and between the classes).

It seems that this was not strictly by the rules at that time (Points calculation based on more classes than just M/W21E) because this was not especially mentioned in the rules until now. Now it is official with text in WRE Guidelines, edition 2012 and says that different classes with same course are valid for WRE.

In these cases probably only one start list based on E course could be acceptable with exact rule how start blocks for different classes should be organized and if vacant places in between are allowed. For R runners from different classes should be clear if they are allowed to start:
- in other blocks (class blocks) or not
- with different start interval in other start blocks or not
- with min. time gap between class blocks to prevent following between classes
or should they start all together (as before) within only one class with same start interval and mixed with each other based on the World Rankings.

So what is the point to use start lists rule only for 21E class if more classes with different options of start organization are valid for WRE?
Feb 3, 2012 5:44 PM # 
This class issue is more or less software issue (how to rank athletes also in correct national age class) and could be solved with subclasses somehow. But with today race management softwares it was probably easier to convince FootO commission to make a rule change than suggest proposal to software owners to upgrade the software functionalities.

For WRE only M/W21E class should be valid because also promotion of WRE is very important and Elite sport should be presented within one class. I think that purpose of WRE is promotion, promotion and promotion of elite orienteering and then everything else.
Feb 3, 2012 11:09 PM # 
I made in addition also a short analysis of NZL case. I’ve thought that this is not so big problem but it seems that many countries organize WRE in this way.

NZL - Sprint championships 2011
Men - 22 R runners in the race (15 in M21E and 7 in M20E)

Start window by classes; start interval
M20E (15:51-16:05); 1 min, 1 vacant in between
M21E (15:17-15:49); 1 min, no vacant

Organizer made random start order for both class and not based on WR. It was good that M21E start before M20E because M21E runners are on average stronger than M20E. In this way following problem between these two classes was reduced. Other classes started together with M21E so it was impossible for youth athletes or recreational runners to spectate. Elite class was not exposed with separate start block. Only Winsplits (it is not possible to analyze pack running between classes). Time gap between classes was too small and there was at least some interactions between runners.

Second and third placed runner in overall standings (WRE class is not displayed separately within official race results) are from M20E class and they have finished their run when M21E class was already finished. From World Rankings database it seems that NZL regularly use same course for M21E and M20E for WRE. A lot of M20 runners in this race have a valid WRE results already from 2007 onwards. They have had some valid results from AUS so probably also AUS uses same approach of WRE organization.

Promotion - general problems
Elite sport is not presented with one class and elite athletes are not clearly seen in one class on start and result list. WRE athletes are divided on two subclasses and this can cause problems for spectators and media because Elite and all R runners don’t start in same block. It is not good for promotion, for media and for spectators as it is all mixed together. Focus on elite athletes is not possible with this type of organization.

New start lists rule is not able to solve this problem.
Feb 4, 2012 10:00 AM # 
Above examples are possible based on this rule.

7. Entries
Please note that all runners on the M/W21 elite courses will be ranked as a result of their performance in the race. No one can opt out of this. Note also that this applies irrespective of the age class of the runner. Thus, for example, a M18 may gain World Rankings points having competed successfully in the M21 World Ranking course.

I have a feeling that is no hope for WRL. This rule shows all our views how we see and perceive Elite sport. It is more than just a rule, it is a "fight" between technical approach vs sociological approach and which views are more important to achieve goals of WRE scheme. It is not possible "to raise the profile of the sport" with rules which devide Elite sport into classes.

The major problem is that WREs are not only elite events like WOC, WCup races and the only way to raise the profile of Elite class at WR events is to make better rules how Elite class must be organized and how must be presented as such. Race instructions should be clear so it would be possible to run Elite class almost as same as WCup race (separately from other classes). Time schedules must be also clear and what are min. promotional conditions to host WRE. We like competitions, points, rankings and to compare each other but on international level this should mean something. And WREs are international level. We just can't spent money and energy only because it is fun to have one more International rankings.

How low we must fall that we will understand that on International level only Points don't worth nothing without promotion, media, awards, prize money, etc.

This discussion thread is closed.