The Jukola relay start signal echoed by the fields in the twilight in the village of Heponiemi. A record-breaking 1964 headlamps flickered on the forest path, resembling a giant glow worm twisting its way through the forest.
Fastest through the first leg was Dag Blandkjenn from Kristiansand OK, leading the way through to the changeover. Jerker Lysell from Rehns BK pushed hard and was a very close second.
– To arrive first to the changeover in Jukola is every orienteerers dream, a smiling Blandkjenn says.
– I was very nervous at the start. At first the competition is very fierce, everyone wants to be in a good position. I made some small mistakes at the beginning, but stayed close to the lead..I tried to keep up with Lysell, as I knew he was going to be strong towards the end.
The best Finn was Samuel Heinonen from Paimion Rasti, who was 13th.
– I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous. But I relaxed soon after the start when I realised that the pace was relatively slow. The pace at the Kurkocup is faster! This is an easy leg when one is fit, it’s a bit crowded in the beginning – that will change further on in the competition.
The favourites held on to the lead positions. IFK Göteborg changed fifth, last year’s winner KooVee was 20th at the changeover followed by Otto Simosas from Tampereen Pyrintö. Last year the first leg failed due to an injury, but Simosas was not feeling any pressure.
– A solid start, I am satisfied as it followed our team tactic. I did not follow the same route to the first control as most of the others, so I was unsure if I was in the lead or not, but I soon noticed a distinct lack of other headlamps ahead of me..
– It’s easy to run in the lead – there is no urgency.
One of the favourites, OK Ravinen started 16th, but lost the way soon after the start and ended up arriving at the changeover in position 384, nealy 22 minutes from the lead.
Text: Outi Hytönen
Photos: start Keijo Lehtimäki, competitors Aaro Tuukkanen