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Coaches travel from afar | 3 Coaches-in-residence
By Christo Peters - Sat 9 Dec 2023 8:17pm
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Three orienteering coaches have arrived NZ: Inès and Anna are in Christchurch and Katerina has just arrived in Auckland. They are here to share their coaching experience, to connect with like-minded orienteers and to get into some local NZ outdoor opportunities. Get to know them, make them welcome,  and do say hello!

Ins Berger | Switzerland

Where do you live and what is your orienteering club?  I live in Neuchâtel, in the western (and french) part of Switzerland, I run for my local club : ANCO and for Halden-SK.

 How many members are in your hometown orienteering club and what sort of events & training do they organise for members and how often? My club counts something like 300 members and about 50 people are showing up at the weekly training sessions. The coaches organise one orienteering training a week and every two weeks we have an interval training. In winter, every two weeks we do a night’O training and the other week is intervals training.

Do you have any plans for your coaching here?  Can you share where you originally stayed when you arrived and what places are you going to stay in NZ and when? I arrived on the 13th of October and I’ve been staying at the Joergensen’s since then!

I’ll be in Auckland from the 20th of December until I leave, on the 8th of February. I will be attempting both the U23 and Junior camp as well as the Oceania Champs and Auckland Triple Crown . 

What is your greatest orienteering achievement to date? Winning the Swiss championships in every discipline in 2023. And 4th in Middle Distance at JWOC 2023.

What other exciting countries, events or maps have been able to compete in or on? What have been your highlights ? I have been competing in quite a few different countries and many types of terrain which I’m very grateful for! I’ve been orienteering all over France, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Portugal but also in Tenerife, Norway, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Austria, Italy, in the Netherlands, USA, Denmark, Croatia, Czech republic, Romania, Belarus, Slovenia, Turkey and obviously now New Zealand as well .

My highlights are probably the coastal type of terrains (in NZ, Spain or even Belgium) but clearly Scandinavia such as Höga Kusten is a must! I also love alpine or jura type of terrain …since I’m Swiss this has to be the answer 😉

What do you like most about orienteering? The fact that it is never boring. It’s always different, there’s always something to work on and we get to discover so many (sometimes extremely random) places!

What do you think orienteers are good at and what do you think we should tell more people about the sport? I think orienteers are good at a lot of things but obviously mostly at anything including some thinking or a physical effort. I think one should tell more about how hard this sport can be when practised at high level and how good runners the best orienteers are.

Do you have any key advice for orienteers just beginning or starting out? Always keep your map orientated. Know/choose what you want to see next then head up to look at the terrain, see the features that you wanted to see when you looked at your map and repeat that process over and over again. 

 Is there an orienteering skill that you are working on for your own practise? Staying focused during a race and working on my application of the theory, because at some point one knows the theory but the challenge is actually doing it (at high speed!). I also have to work on my compass skills.

What is next for you after NZ? What is your next goal when you return home? Next year is my first year competing in the elite class! I’m very excited about that and my goal is to get selected for World Cups! And either European Champs or World Universities!

 You have already been to a few events In NZ.  Where have you been and what are the most memorable events or places for orienteering so far? Hard question! I’ve been to the Canterbury champs which was my first experience here thus definitely memorable. Especially since the first day was in some native bush! (Castle Hill Village) and on the second day, the orienteering was under pouring rain and it was freezing cold which I wasn’t very well prepared for.
I also attended a few local trainings and a PAPO competition which have all been very fun. It is so nice to see how motivated everyone is here:)
But I’d say the coolest and main event of the past month was the Nationals in Hawke’s Bay! Three totally different types of terrain and competing during four days, one for each discipline, no time to get bored and very intense, that was awesome.

What kinds of training or coaching have you been involved with? How is the coaching going? I’ve been organising one team’s O training for PAPO which was heaps of fun and a sprint intervals training in Wellington. Apart from that I’ve also been helping to put together training weekends for beginners, one in Invercargill with Kaia which was also such a cool experience! And one here in Christchurch for people from the club and beginners. It’s been lovely to go out in the forest with the people, take them in the terrain and see them understanding the map and see how keen they were to be putting in practice the skills they had just learnt !

Follow Inès on Instagram:  @ineesberger

Anna Nilsson Simkovics  | Austria

Where do you live and what is your orienteering club? I live in Vienna, Austria and I compete for OLC Wienerwald in Austria and for Ulricehamns OK in Sweden.

How many members are in your hometown orienteering club and what sort of events & training do they organise for members and how often? We are 70 members in my Austrian club, around 30 of whom are regular participants in orienteering events. During the summer we have weekly orienteering and outdoor strength & conditioning sessions that are open to the public. In the winter we try to meet once a week for running intervals. Occasionally there is also the possibility for self-service orienteering, where markers are out in the terrain and participants can find the map in a hidden bag at the start triangle, making it possible for everyone to do the training on any day and time of the day during a period of two weeks. Aside from the club training, members are encouraged to take part in local orienteering events and parkruns to improve their orienteering skills and running capacity. 

Do you have any plans for your coaching here?  Can you share where you originally stayed when you arrived and what places are you going to stay in NZ and when? I just arrived in Christchurch and I am staying at the orienteering family Moore for the first weeks. My first task will be to coach at the ONZ under 23 camp followed by the junior camp in Christchurch in December. 

What is your greatest orienteering achievement to date?  World Games Bronze in the Mixed Sprint Relay in Colombia. 

What other exciting countries, events or maps have been able to compete in or on? What have been your highlights ?When it comes to forest orienteering, Scandinavian terrains and maps are my favorites.The forests are beautiful and often very detailed, they are simply made for orienteering.

My favourite sprint orienteering map is that of Venice, with its many bridges and narrow passages, providing very challenging route choices. I have competed in many World Cups, World Champs and European Champs in my life and these are always highlights because these are the competitions I am aiming and training for. 

Then there is O-ringen, the Swedish 5-day orienteering event and the Finnish Jukola/Venla relay. Coming from a rather small orienteering nation, you realise at these events that there are actually thousands of other people who enjoy the sport too. Back home in Austria, my favorite event is the Vienna Orienteering Challenge, a 3-day sprint orienteering event organised by my brother Erik. It’s always nice to welcome international orienteers to my hometown and Vienna has some cool areas for sprint orienteering!But there are also many other events that I enjoy. I have been part of the PWT China Tour a few times and I can highly recommend taking part. It’s a great opportunity to explore remote places with orienteers from around the world. It has contributed to some unforgettable experiences and some long lasting friendships. 

What do you like most about orienteering? It’s the variation. I like that our sports arena looks different everywhere we go and that there is always a new challenge. But I also like the orienteering community, which is so welcoming. Orienteering has opened so many doors for me and this time I entered New Zealand. 

What do you think orienteers are good at and what do you think we should tell more people about our sport? Orienteers are very good at solving problems and they have very good coordinative abilities, which is due to the constant adaptation to different situations and terrain types. They are also very good at blaming their own mistakes on the map.

All people already involved in the sport should be better in sharing their experience and inviting more people to the sport. We should tell that it is an outdoor sport for all ages and abilities that takes you to beautiful places. We also need to strengthen the image that orienteering is a competitive sport and a fun choice in life. 

Do you have any key advice for orienteers just beginning or starting out? Be patient! Start orienteering in a built area, park or forest-park to learn the colours and symbols of an orienteering map. Chose easy courses in the beginning and step up when you feel ready for it. Leave the compass aside until you’ve clearly understood an orienteering map and don’t be stressed by the progress of other people around you. Keep in mind that we all need our own time to learn and improve. Most importantly, don’t give up before you have had that perfect orienteering experience. The flow that you feel when you have everything under control, you know where to go, no-one can distract you and you smoothly spike all the controls and finish with a smile. This feeling will make the effort you put into learning orienteering worth it. When you’ve explored parts of New Zealand with an orienteering map, don’t be afraid to go abroad to take part in orienteering events in other countries.There are always courses for everyone. 

Is there an orienteering skill that you are working on for your own practice. Orienteering is not only about orienteering techniques, it is also about the skill to run in various terrains. This summer I am working on my sprint specific running where I see room for improvement. This includes running on different surfaces and being able to run stairs up and down and to do quick turns and jumps while running fast. 

What is next for you after NZ? What is your next goal when you return home? I will continue working as a coach because it is my passion. I love to see the progress of people developing and reach their goals, no matter what age. 

My next orienteering goal is to qualify for the 2024 Sprint World Orienteering Championships in Edinburgh and once I get there my aim is to beat my previous personal best individual result.I

Anna on instagram: @annasimkovics

Katerina Vlasova  | Russia / Norway

Where do you live and what is your orienteering club? I am Russian. I live in Norway, in Oslo for one year now. I run for Heming club and also coach youngsters in two clubs: Heming and Fossum. They kindly let me spend the coldest Norwegian months in New Zealand this summer and share some Scandinavian orienteering secrets 🙂 I am also a part of PWT Italy – an Italian orienteering club. With that club we organized many big events last years: WMOC 2022, EOC 2023 and African Championships in Egypt 2021. 

How many members are in your hometown orienteering club and what sort of events & training do they organise for members and how often? Heming club is not the biggest in Norway, we have about 300 active members, but we are growing. We have trainings at least twice per week: in the summer season usually with a map; in the winter we add indoor strength and interval sessions. This year we managed to gather two teams and go to the Youth Jukola. It was a lot of fun, and I believe it was motivating for youngsters to train more to show better results next year. There are many parents in the club who join their kids on training sessions too. 

Do you have any plans for your coaching here?  Can you share where you originally stayed when you arrived and what places are you going to stay in NZ and when? I am going to stay in both Auckland and Christchurch. I will help with Camps in December and then will help in local clubs. I am happy with the opportunity to explore both the North and South Islands!

What is your greatest orienteering achievement to date? I was running for the Junior Russian national team, and participated at two JWOCs 2016 and 2017 in Switzerland and Finland, and at WUOC 2018 in Finland. Nowadays I am doing orienteering mostly for fun and am more focused on coaching.

What other exciting countries, events or maps have been able to compete in or on? What have been your highlights?  Orienteering is great because of the many different terrains you can experience. As I mentioned before, with my Italian club we organized the 2021 African Championships in Egypt. There we had races in the desert, and it was pretty cool: endless sand and some camels walking around.
One of the coolest maps I ever ran with was Matera, a town in southern Italy where “James Bond No Time to Die” was filmed. The place is perfect for orienteering, so easy to lose yourself if you run a bit faster than you can read the map. It is a very beautiful place.

What do you like most about orienteering? Orienteering gave me the opportunity to visit different countries and meet amazing people, including my boyfriend. I don’t think I would move to Norway if I wasn’t an orienteer, or come to New Zealand now! For me, this sport really opened up the world. If you are an orienteer, you can find friends and a great community everywhere, wherever you go, because orienteers are just the best people.

I love the feeling of being alone with nature as well. Whatever problems you have in real life, orienteering can always offer you a perfect escape and recharge.

What do you think orienteers are good at and what do you think we should tell more people about our sport?  I believe that we have a higher level of connection with nature. And we are really brave and strong—I mean, running in the wild forest, sometimes totally alone, sometimes under the strong rain..It doesn’t sound special to us, but it is special!
We should not just tell, we should help them to give it a try, because one more good thing is that you don’t need to be young and strong to do orienteering, it is for all ages.

Do you have any key advice for orienteers just beginning or starting out? I always tell the kids I am coaching that the main thing is to enjoy the process. So my advice would be – just fall in love with orienteering, find friends who love it too and improve together. 

Is there an orienteering skill that you are working on for your own practice? Probably the mental part: staying calm and continuing doing what you can even after big mistakes. Don’t let thoughts in your head disturb you.

What is next for you after NZ? What is your next goal when you return home? After NZ I return to Norway and still have two “winter” months, March and April, so my plan is skiing 🙂 and waiting for the summer season. 

Katerina on Instagram: @katerina_vaaaaa

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