Tom Reynolds has recently moved to Hamilton to continue training as an emergency medicine specialist. Sportswise he is now currently at Godzone but looking forward to refocus on orienteering afterwards.
How did you start orienteering? What was the motivation ? I started at high school. I had a friend at school who was into it, so I gave it a try. Initially it was just as a sport to complement mountain biking. I got lucky at my second forest event where we got chatting with Rob Garden and Mark Lawson. Mark took me out for my first bit of training after that event which got me going on the right foot. Things just grew from there, with the rest of the family getting involved too.
When did you join a club? What motivated you to join a club? I joined Northwest almost straight away, it was a no-brainer with the friendly welcome we had from other club members and the huge amount of help we had early on from people like Mark. Since then I moved to Rotorua and joined OBOP.
What do new members want to know about your current club, and your local events? How is your club different from the others? I’m technically now a member of OBOP, but I was living in Whangarei and helping a little with things up north. Whangarei is a great small club, currently an offshoot of Northwest, though it has a long history as a club in its own right. Maybe this isn’t completely different from others, but the club up here does a great job of making events happen from a small pool of orienteers, using a small pool of maps in a community that doesn’t have a large name recognition of orienteering. Events include street events, rogaines, sprint and more traditional courses. Whangarei also has some of New Zealand’s most picturesque coastal maps at Smugglers Cove and Mimiwhangata.
Tom has been elected onto the ONZ Council and so we asked about all that jazz…
Can you describe roughly what you think the ONZ Councils’ role is for the sport? The council provides governance for ONZ. One way to think of this is that ONZ is a federation of clubs, each with individual situations but sharing a common interest in orienteering in New Zealand. ONZ unites these clubs, provides a central structure to explore and address common issues for the benefit of clubs, while allowing the sport to interface on a national and international level. This goes beyond high performance and being able to compete at IOF events. It also includes working out questions of how orienteering interfaces with the laws of New Zealand (think health and safety), maintaining rules and quality standards for the sport domestically while ensuring we stick with international progress and ultimately looking a ways we can help orienteering to thrive in a changing sport and recreation climate. Finally, I think the council has an important place to respect the history of orienteering in New Zealand. ONZ in its various forms has been around for 47 years in 2020, and the role of council is to act as stewards for the sport to ensure its ongoing health and sustainability in a changing world.
Does our Council differ from other sports? The obvious answer would be that Orienteering NZ operates with much smaller resources than many other sports organisations. While this is true I think this is not the only way we differ. Across the entire sport there are volunteers generously giving their time, often to perform quite technical and complex tasks to make our sport run. Our sport consistently delivers high quality, technically complex events in a wide range of locations, mainly on the back of volunteer time only. I don’t know of any other sports of our scale that manage such a feat week in week out across the country. This extends through all levels of the sport from technical to high performance to club administration. The council is well aware of this and strives to do our best to support this continuing in the future.
In your personal opinion, what do you think were some of ONZ’s key strategic issues that were prioritised in 2020 and dealt with well? And yes, it was a strange year, so we must factor that in. Council moved quickly to give guidance on Covid19 related issues. Compared to some other outdoor sports, our federated structure meant we were able to have a clear list of guidelines for clubs to base their own response off, hopefully minimising the work and stress of clubs when considering how to have continuity of events during the various steps of lockdown. Just look to trail running for a comparison of a sport with a patchwork approach to these issues around the country.
Do you think the processes on Council have helped relieve the clubs and support the clubs and members particularly well? I think the council this year has had a good emphasis on doing rather than just thinking. Some real progress is taking place on the coaching and knowledge sharing front Council has also facilitated some wider discussions on some perennial issues in New Zealand Orienteering, including the question of how volunteerism and for profit events interface, for example. All of this has been done on a tight budget.
Tom also represents NZ own the IOF Medical Commission. We asked Tom to explain about what happens there. The IOF Medical Commission is a small piece of IOF. There are 4 members, 2 from Finland, 1 from Sweden and myself. The other members are a little older than me, and quite established in their positions. They have had roles in some of the important developments in the medical field related to orienteering over the last few decades. The commission has a pretty narrow focus, mainly around anti-doping, but also with projects related to contemporary issues in sports medicine. Most recently this included a trans-gender policy for the IOF, something required to keep up with other international sports organisations. One piece of work I have completed additional to this is a literature review of research related to sports medicine and orienteering in recent years. This was a really interesting way to learn a little more about some of the big medical issues in orienteering over the last few decades. For example there was a run of sudden cardiac death in young Swedish orienteers that was extensively investigated in the early 1990s and an outbreak of hepatitis in the 1950s that is a key reason behind modern day equipment requirements in orienteering. Overall the time commitment is not especially large and it has been an interesting way to see another side of the administration of an international sports organisation.
We also asked Tom about AED’s (Automated External Defibrillators). What AED’s may be suitable for clubs?. AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators) are a key part of survival in community cardiac arrests. Time to defibrillation a key predictor of survival. In my opinion, purchasing an AED should be considered by all orienteering clubs in New Zealand.
Sudden cardiac death is a rare but not unheard of issue in sport. It can strike young, previously well people as well as older adults with existing heart disease. In the situation that a participant at an orienteering event collapsed and required CPR, being able to get a defibrillator to them is the intervention that is most likely to be lifesaving. We are often having events in areas well away from medical aid, so by the time an ambulance (or helicopter) arrives, it may be too late.
Modern AEDs are easy to use, small and portable. Cost is generally in the area of $1000-$2000, and ongoing costs will likely include replacing defib pads every 5-10 years. Funding for an AED is also something that could easily be pursued through grant funding.
The other part of the AED/wider medical consideration for a club, is having club members who are competent in first aid. We are lucky to have a whole bunch of health professionals who are active orienteers. It would be good practise to ensure that as part of every event, clubs have a nominated person with first aid expertise.
Is there any other medical prospects and/or discussion from the international medical arena that could be useful or clubs to know about? Most work with IOF is focussed on anti-doping efforts. A common job is reviewing TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) applications. These are applications made by athletes to use otherwise banned or restricted substances on the basis of medical conditions. For example, use of medications to treat asthma. The World Anti-doping Authority has clear, and quite strict, processes for considering examples like this. It relates to the medications that are covered, what information an athlete must provide and how ongoing monitoring should occur.
What about NZ events in the future – what about in a pandemic? Are there some things you think we should do or start thinking about more thoroughly in NZ?
I’m no epidemiologist, so my thoughts are very much a personal opinion. I do think we need to be prepared for international travel to be very limited for another 2-3 years. I think clubs did an awesome job of keeping elements of orienteering running through the worst of the lockdowns in NZ. The biggest impacts are likely to be in high performance. I think looking to 2021 and beyond we need to have a serious think about how we can keep the standard of competition high and continue the steady rise of New Zealand orienteers in the elite and junior grades. A renewed focus on domestic competition like the super series would be a good start, perhaps with some additional formats (sprint relay, forest relay) to keep excitement and motivation for racing high.
Back to your personal experience, what orienteering are you still mastering? I’m still working at improving my navigation in detail rich areas. I’m ok in sand dunes, courtesy of many hours in Woodhill, but I find rock detail really tricky. Places like Kura Tāwhiti (Castle Hill) or The Rockery at Onewhero still tend to trip me up.
What’s your personal orienteering claim to fame? My biggest claim to fame would be winning the M21E long distance at Waioneke in 2012. I had a great run on a map that I had always found challenging. A trio of national relay titles with Northwest is also pretty special too.
Who do you admire in the orienteering community, or who is the one you like to watch or compare to? Hard to put down one name. I really admire the club members around the country who tirelessly put their hands up to set and control events year-in year-out. The technical expertise and attention to detail in setting events is one of the things that makes our sport so special.
What are some of the events you really remember? And why? Good or bad! (Everyone has some wins and some total disasters!) I fondly remember Oceania 2006. I was M16 and it was the first event I went to that felt like a really big event. We had about half a dozen Kiwis and a similar number of Australians in our grade, and the event had a multiday format with points scored each day, leading to a big sense of competition through the week. The terrain, the competition, the people and even the weather, it was a perfect summer multi-day.
What future untapped prospects can you see for events in the future? Is there anything fun you have seen overseas we could try? I think we can be creative with the areas we use on the urban fringe. Bringing orienteering closer to town and where people live is important. Mapping areas that may not be great for a multi-day or A level event, such as thin narrow strips of farm/park, or little pockets of forest, can be a way to add that next level to a club event beyond a street series event. I think this helps with re-imaging everyday places that may have long been overlooked as places of recreation.
How do you train and prepare for big events? Have you any tips for others? I’m a lot less serious about it now than I used to be. One thing I still try and do is to think about some likely legs and how I might approach them. For example, I might look at the old map of an area, consider where the start is likely to be and have thought out a plan A, B, etc for various types of legs. If I get a long leg first, will I look to find a really obvious handrail, or will straight lining be better? Will I use contour features preferentially, or will vegetation be better? What are the main route choices options? Will I take on big climbs, or go around? I think having some specifics is really important. Having a few pre-thought out possibilities helps speed up thinking during the event, it also gives a positive, useful direction to place any pre-race nerves.
Have you any other key advice for orienteers just starting out? Help with control collection! At most events when I was starting out I would head out and collect controls, often with Mark Lawson or someone similar. This was an excellent way to tackle controls I had struggled on and get some really useful coaching advice. It is great way to get to know other club members too.
Tom Reynolds is always updating his training in medicine, and he is keen on sports medicine and a member of Orienteering Bay of Plenty.
Thanks Dr Tom, for your mega useful answers. Happy orienteering!
Top image: Tom Reynolds, JWOC 2007 in Australia. Base image: NZ sprint event, 2010.
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