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Report on the 19th World Mountain Running Trophy. Girdwood. Alaska. USA. September 20th - 21st 2003

Alaska hosts a memorable World Mountain Running Trophy. Until full results and photographs are published on our web page, these can be seen by using the link to the 2003 Trophy web page.

When selecting Alaska as the venue for the 2003 World Trophy races, the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) were well aware that some risks were involved. We had no doubt that the organisation would be of a high standard and this proved to be the case. However, the cost of reaching the venue threatened to deter many countries from participating, and the weather was an unpredictable factor since, after all, we knew that Alaska was a rather cold part of the USA. With the assurance that it never snowed on the competition mountain in mid September (!) all plans went ahead.
The problem of travelling costs was mitigated by generous travelling grants from the IAAF and WMRA and we had a satisfactory attendance from 27 different countries.
In the days, before the competition Girdwood (about 40km from Anchorage) enjoyed blue skies with cold frosty mornings turning into warm pleasant days as the sun rose.
The day of the races dawned with overcast skies and before long, about 3 hours before the first race, the snow started to fall! A ‘,crisis solving’, group was convened by the LOC and a plan of action agreed with WMRA officials. A large team of volunteers was rapidly assembled, armed with rakes for removing the snow from the race track in the steepest most difficult parts of the course. Options to introduce a delay or change the courses were considered, rejected, and the races went ahead as planned and on schedule.

The junior ladies race (4.2km &285m up & down) was won by Karissa Hawitt, a national cross country champion in her age group in England, in 17 minutes 24 seconds, followed closely by Turkan Bozkurt (TUR) and Mateja Kosovelj (SLO). The team gold went to Slovenia and 10 countries finished full teams.

The junior mens race (7.7km & 600m up & down) proved an even greater triumph for Slovenia as they took gold and silver individual medals with Mitja Kosovelj (35 minutes 41 seconds), and Peter Lamovec (36.01). They were followed by 15-year-old Sedat Gunen of Turkey in bronze medal position, a favourite for more medals in the junior age group in the future. Slovenia again carried off the team award and thus enjoyed the rewards for their encouragement of mountain running in Slovenia by starting with their youth. 11 countries finished full teams.

By the time the senior ladies race (7.7km & 600m up & down) started the blizzard was in full swing but the course volunteers worked at full stretch to keep the course clear. With several past World Trophy medallists and champions competing (Mudge SCO, Moon NZL, Guillot FRA, Zatorska POL, Pichrtova CZE, Confortola ITA,) their race appeared wide open. The medals would go to the ones wearing the correct footwear and brave enough to overcome the difficult conditions. Melissa Moon of New Zealand, champion in 2001, and Angela Mudge of Scotland, champion in 2000 fought it out in close company until Melissa charged ahead of Angela at the start of the descent to establish a lead, which she kept up with great determination until the finish line. This victory capped a wonderful weekend for New Zealand whose bid to stage the 2005 World Mountain Running Trophy had received the approval of the WMRA annual congress. Scotland with Angela in silver medal position and team mate Tracey Brindley having a brilliant descent to take bronze, carried off the team gold medal. After all, the weather in Scotland is not so much different to that in Alaska at times, so their team no doubt felt at home in the prevailing conditions! 15 countries finished full teams
The final race for senior men (11.48km & 900m of up & down) was held the following day, by which time the snow had ceased and the track reasonably clear but it was still a winter wonderland on the mountain.
Marco De Gasperi (ITA) already 3 times senior champion in the up/down event started as the favourite to repeat his previous triumphs. He had to be in the very best of form to beat the young, and rapidly improving, Florian Heinzle (a member of the famous Heinzle family of mountain runners in Austria) by a mere 16 seconds. With the 2003 European champion, Marco Gaiardo in bronze medal position, Emanuele Manzi in 7th and Claudio Cassi in 13th the Italian men, for the 19th consecutive occasion, comfortably won the team event from England and Germany. 18 countries finished full teams.

So the two senior champions, Marco De Gasperi and Melissa Moon repeated their 2001 victories, which were won in entirely different conditions in Italy, proving that championship talent will out, whatever the situation.

This was a truly Alaska wilderness experience which all who took part will always remember.

The 2004 Trophy takes place on September 4th and 5th on the Winter Olympic (2006) Mountain in Sauze d’,Oulx, Italy, but we are absolutely confident that we will be racing well before any snowfall!

Danny Hughes
President WMRA

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