Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Musings on Elite Orienteering in Canada

I was sitting in the Vancouver airport last Thursday waiting for my flight home from Sprint Camp when I saw one of the other high performance program members had posted this online: “off to portugal in 3hrs!!!!!!!!! eheheheh!!!!!!!!” It was at that point that I thought, for the briefest of moments, of getting out of my chair, walking back through security, cancelling my flight to Ottawa, and boarding a plane to Portugal to join Emily Kemp (for who else could have posted that message?) at the Portugal O-Meeting.

As a bit of background, Emily Kemp, is a fellow orienteer from Ottawa, now studying and training in St. Etienne, France, with the French national team, who, with one year of JWOC left has already to 13th places at JWOC and competed at WOC last year.

It makes me wonder though… does one have to spend the money and effort to travel to / live in Europe to reach that level in orienteering? Emily after all, was 13th in the JWOC middle in Denmark in 2010, before having moved to France. Granted she had already spent a few summers training and competing in Europe but still… she was a very good orienteer long before having moved to France to train with the best. And while in Ottawa she would regularly run in the men’s elite classes while a female junior! She could run those courses because she was good but she was also good because she ran them. This allowed her to compare herself to tougher competition and push herself harder.

Robbie Anderson, again from Ottawa, recently moved to Sweden to enrol in a master’s program, and train. Again he was good before he started but it seems he’s been improving quickly thanks to more regular chances to get onto new maps and train with and race against tougher competition. Several of the top American orienteers have also moved to Europe to train.

There’s nothing wrong with that from a personal perspective – it helps them improve and reach their goals so power to them. On the other hand it further lowers the competition at North American events for those of us that have, for whatever reasons, chosen to stay on the continent.

The West coast, having just come from a training camp there, is lucky. They regularly get overseas students studying in Vancouver that train with GVOC and provide high level competition to local orienteers on a regular basis.

Thanks to Margo and Chris for the photo from the Sprint Camp Farsta.
I was truly looking for a photo from intervals the day before where a large group of elites (5+ Canadians, 2 Americans, 1 Norwegian, 1 Italian) were running head to head but this will do :) It`s not everyday you get competition like that!

So here’s my question for you all: What is it the rest of us can do to help develop strong competitive programs in North America?

Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Provide incentives for Elites (HPP / US Standing Team) to travel to your events
  • More regular cheap training camps hosted in a variety of areas (there’s only so many times we can get benefit from running on the same maps all the time)
  • Attract overseas orienteers to our clubs and events (how?? via university and off-season events?)
  • Have regional training centres

Jeff Teutsch