It was my first time to be in the World Trail Orienteering Championship (WTOC), experiencing how a trail orienteering competition at a world-class level looked like. This year, in 2018, WTOC happened in Daugavpils, Latvia. This is the second largest city in Latvia.
Background about the competition procedures
In Day 1, there was a model event to demonstrate how the two types of competitions, Pre-O (precision orienteering) and Temp-O, were organized. The Pre-O consisted of a timed control (TC) and a main course. The main course has a number of multiple-choice questions, represented by the flags placed in the field. The questions are always in the form of "which flag correctly corresponds to a point at an orienteering map". TC is used for tie-breaker: if several people answer the same number of questions correctly in the main course, whoever answers the TC the fastest (with penalty time for wrong answers) wins.
In this model event, the TC was before the main course. Before reaching the TC, some staff members managed queuing up of the competitors. At the queue, the competitors are not supposed to see any flags of the TC. The first person at the queue is then led by a staff member with an umbrella to the TC station. The umbrella staff is supposed to use the umbrella to block the view of the flags, while leading the competitor from the queue to the TC station.
Once the competitor reaches the TC station, there are three staff members blocking the front view, and another staff member guides the competitor to be seated, asks for the answering sheet, and lets the competitor choose whether to answer the questions by pointing or by speaking, and whether the question maps are bounded or not. The three staff members can then walk away to reveal 5 flags of the TC. A staff member then says this familiar line with finger: "there are 5 flags: alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo. Time starts now." The competitor can then open the question maps from the top to the bottom, answering which flag corresponds to the center of the circle in the map. After answering all the map questions, the total time is recorded. The staff member confirms the answers by the competitor with the record. The competitor can then leave the TC and go to the start point of the main course.
Things are simpler at the main course. Competitors just need to record the answers for each question on the map. The staff in the main course just makes sure the competitors do not get off trail and not into any restricted paths. In between some controls, there is one-way section path to forbid competitors from going back, which is also guarded by the staff. There is also a time limit of the main course, which is timed by the electronic punch. Overtime means deducting number of correct answers for the competitor in the main course.
Back to the main point
After the model of Pre-O, there is a model of Temp-O. Temp-O is basically a series of TC stations, with the difference that there are 6 flags, and there is a possibility of a zero answer -- none of the flags are correct. Thus, the procedures for the Temp-O station is almost exactly the same as the TC station.
When waiting in the queue, the staff members with the umbrellas, who were all girls, were talking to each other. Of course I had no idea what they were talking about, since they probably all talked in their local language. Then, a competitor behind me asked one of the umbrella staff why her finger was bandaged. She seemed not to be able to reply in English, so she gave a breaking sound while pointing at the fingernail -- you know, nail arts.
These umbrella staff members worked at rotation: one staff moved a competitor to the TC station, while another was standby to cover the next competitor in the queue. These umbrella staff seemed to decide who covered the next competitor, and they looked at me. Perhaps I was acting like rotating myself, and they were giggling by themselves. One of the staff then took out a phone, asking me to take a selfie with her. This was spotted by my team manager, who commented "focus on the competition". Yes I would, but I was not person who initiated the selfie. She was then the umbrella staff for me to get to the Temp-O station. At this model temp-O station, I got 1 out of 4 questions wrong and used 40 seconds in total. Not very fast, but at least I was recovering from the dismal results when I was in Lithuania.
I told about what happened to some of my teammates after the model. One teammate commented that Latvia has the highest female-to-male ratio in the world. Well, I did notice fewer guys when I got to the Baltic states.
The next few days
The story was not over. In Day 2 of the Temp-O competition, when I was waiting at a station, I felt that I met her again as the umbrella staff. She smiled back to me. She again giggled with another umbrella staff. Then, the other staff took another selfie with me, before entering the station. At that moment, I think another team member of mine spotted what had happened. Yet, he actually did not know what had happened at that point.
Something strange was happening. Perhaps I should ask. At the end of the competition, a lot of staff gathered, but I did not think I saw her. There was an opening ceremony, and heavy rain was started at the middle of the ceremony. I did not see her.
In Day 3 of the first Pre-O competition, I was a public race participant. I think I spotted her guarding at one point of the main course, since she once again smiled at me, and whispering and giggling with another staff. I wish we could introduce ourselves and perhaps get a selfie together with my phone. Yet, I could not bring a phone during the competition, and I should not do anything that disrupts the other competitors, such as talking out loud. Thus, I proceeded to the next question. Another team member of mine, who seemed to be sagacious to know what had happened, gave me a scary grin.
In Day 4 of the second model event, I did not see her at all, probably because the course was short and there was no TC station, and fewer staff was needed.
Day 5, which was my last day in WTOC, was the second Pre-O competition. I also participated as a public race. Before starting, I saw her with the bandaged finger, at the registration with other staff members. I was also with my other team members. I mentioned to my team members that someone in the staff team seemed to show interest of me. Perhaps before the competition, my team could help me to take the picture of us. The staff was whispering in their language, and our team member discussed in our language. Finally, I asked her, and she was excited!
After the pictures, we got ready to start with a TC station. My team members cared that I did not ask her email or Facebook account. Yet, I got another chance.
She once again was my umbrella staff.
When waiting for the next person answering the TC questions, we got a chance to introduce ourselves. I knew her name, and I told her my name. Her friend once again talked in their language, and I picked up some words like "email" and "pen". So I said, "I would be happy to write down my contact, but I am competing and do not have a pen." She was then thrown with a water pen, and she asked me to write down my name. I did. I said she may search me on Facebook, but I think she seemed confused. Later, she asked me whether I have an Instagram account. I do, but when she asked, the staff in the TC station asked me to go in. Probably, she does not use Facebook (which is already one generation ago), but uses Instagram.
I did not have time to write my Instagram account name.
After answering the TC questions, she was gone. I had to continue the process of the competition by starting the main course of the Pre-O. After finishing the Pre-O, the staff was packing, and our team had to go back to the place to stay.
I planned to leave Daugavpils on the next morning because of a public foot-O race in Riga. My team members suggested me to come back for the banquet after the race, but it was too much of a hassle to travel between the foot-O race and Daugavpils, which takes at least 4-hour travel time one-way.
Thus, I was like the guy who wrote the wrong thing on the girl's hand, and God knows whether we will meet again. Looking back, this story was really like the climax scene in Makoto Shinkai's "Your Name".