Campus - 01.09.2023 - 08:00
In the seven races of the European Championships in the categories of Sprint, Middle, and Sprint Relay, athletes from Swiss universities clinched five gold medals. In total, 15 out of 21 possible medals stayed in Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, Swiss universities also claimed the top spots in the European University Rankings, with ETH Zurich at number 1 and the University of Bern at number 3.
Swiss universities were represented by various Swiss Orienteering team athletes, Swiss, European, and even world champions in Eastern Switzerland. Encouragingly, Eliane Deininger, a local, also excelled. The geography student from the University of Bern had high aspirations for the sprint race in her hometown of St. Gallen. She performed excellently in the qualification race, finishing just one second behind the leader. However, a wrong route choice cost the member of the organizing orienteering group in St. Gallen/Appenzell about half a minute in the final race, and she secured the eighth position in a tight race. In the middle-distance race at Hirschberg, the 23-year-old showcased her technical and conditioning prowess, moving up to fifth place. In the concluding sprint relay in the village of Appenzell, she teamed up with her fellow student Anja Probst from Belp. Both athletes had two heats to compete in. Deininger took over in ninth place from Probst, worked her way up to third place, and sprinted to second place in her second heat. This marked Deininger's fourth medal at international university championships in foot and ski orienteering.
In the opening speech of the championships on August 24th, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Ehrenzeller, the president of the University of St.Gallen, drew intriguing connections to the widely-used phrase "Mens sana in corpore" (a healthy mind in a healthy body). University Council President Stefan Kölliker extended this thought during the closing ceremony, congratulating those present on their dual careers in elite sports and academics. The over 200 participants from 66 universities and 17 European countries also witnessed the Climate Staircase project. The Climate Staircase raises awareness of this societal challenge and was conceived within the framework of the Master's Certificate in Managing Climate Solutions at the University of St. Gallen by Prof. Dr. Rolf Wüstenhagen. Rolf Wüstenhagen, an avid orienteering enthusiast, earned high praise from the participants at the European Championships for designing the course in the Sprint Finals.
The University of St.Gallen initiated the championships, with Daniel Studer, Director of Unisports, leading the way. Local orienteering clubs OLG St. Gallen/Appenzell and OL Regio Wil, along with Swiss Orienteering, Swiss University Sports, and various other organizations, provided support for the events. In addition to the three disciplines of the European Championships, two races for the Swiss youth squads and a regional orienteering event for the general public were held over the weekend. This resulted in nearly 800 athletes participating in orienteering. Integrated into various orienteering activities throughout the year, the goal was to promote orienteering in Eastern Switzerland and motivate more individuals to engage in the sport.
Text: Daniel Studer, Director of Unisport und Hanspeter Schenk, Photographer
Images: Hanspeter Schenk